Bad breath, or halitosis, can be embarrassing and annoying, but it can also point to certain underlying health issues. Let’s take a look at how oral probiotics might be the solution you need to reduce your bad breath once and for all.
Several studies suggest that chewable probiotics with xylitol may be the key to eliminating bad breath. Chewing xylitol helps to stimulate saliva production, which can help to reduce bad breath, while the introduction of chewable probiotics can help to compete against the bad bacteria that cause halitosis.
In one study, 20 patients experiencing halitosis were given 2 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of Lactobacillus salivarius and xylitol. Researchers then recorded oral malodor and general clinical parameters for each patient at two and four weeks into the study. Results of the study showed that all 20 patients tested positive for L. salivarius in their saliva within two weeks, even though 12 of the subjects had no signs of this probiotic strain prior to the study.
After 2 weeks all subjects showed statistically significant decreases in oral malodor parameters. By the end of the 4-week study, halitosis parameters saw a further reduction, along with a decrease in bleeding gums on probing (a common sign of gum disease).1
In another study, Streptococcus salivarius was found to be a common bacterial strain found in the saliva of those who do not have bad breath and halitosis. Research suggests that S. salivarius oral probiotic produces bacteriocins, which may help to combat the bacteria responsible for producing volatile sulfur compounds. These compounds are responsible for the bad smells associated with halitosis. Using lozenges or gum containing S. salivarius was found to significantly reduce volatile sulfur compounds among patients diagnosed with bad breath and halitosis.2
In another study, researchers isolated three strains of Lactobacilli oral probiotics that produced hydrogen peroxide in children’s saliva and their effects on the production of volatile sulfur compounds. These strains were identified as Weisella cibaria and were found to effectively inhibit the production of volatile sulfur compounds created by Fusobacterium nucleatum.3
What Causes Bad Breath
The vast majority of bad breath cases (about 85 percent) are caused by intraoral conditions.4 This includes:
- Tongue coating – The most common origin of bad breath, the surface of the tongue offers an ideal environment for oral bacteria to grow and thrive. These bacteria feed on food remnants and epithelial cells shed in the mouth, leading to putrefaction and the release of volatile sulfur compounds that contribute to the characteristic bad breath.4
- Insufficient saliva – Saliva has natural antimicrobial properties that allow it to neutralize certain bacteria that contribute to bad breath and wash away food particles in your mouth. This is also why most people get bad breath in the morning. You naturally produce less saliva when you sleep, allowing for bacteria to grow and giving you morning breath in the process.4
- Poor dental hygiene – Dental hygiene plays an integral role in your overall health. Failing to brush and floss regularly allows for the buildup of food particles and bacteria in the mouth. This contributes to the oral malodor, but it also contributes to tooth decay and gum diseases, like periodontitis and gingivitis. These can lead to serious health complications on top of chronic bad breath.
Many patients and physicians still mistakenly believe that bad breath originates somewhere in the stomach or gastrointestinal tract. In reality, only about 5 percent of bad breath cases are caused by gastrointestinal conditions as the contents of the stomach generally don’t travel back up the esophagus because of a one-way valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter.4
Treatments for Bad Breath
As mentioned, chewable probiotics with xylitol can play a role in reducing bad breath and supporting your overall oral health but using probiotics alone won’t be enough.
Good dental hygiene should be your first line of defense against halitosis. Brushing and flossing helps to break down plaque, remove food particles, and regulate the bacteria in your mouth, all of which can help to reduce oral malodor. Tongue brushing and tongue scraping can also help to break down bacteria on your tongue while potentially improving your sense of taste. Brush your teeth twice a day, morning and night, for at least two minutes. Floss at least once per day.
Mouthwash and mouth rinses can also help with bad breath, though they should by no means be used as a complete substitute for oral hygiene. In one study, patients were provided with several treatments upon waking up in the morning, one of which was a rinse with 5 mL of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Researchers measured sulfur gases in the volunteer’s mouths before the treatment and eight hours after. Hydrogen peroxide was found to significantly reduce sulfur gas concentrations after eight hours.5
Bad breath remains a problem that affects many, but with the right probiotics and oral hygiene practices, you may be able to reduce your halitosis and support better oral health.