While I was writing about a difficult autoimmune illness called Sjogren’s syndrome, it occurred to me that one the products I use regularly for my own health might be very helpful to people with this illness. One of the chief symptoms that these people have is very low levels of saliva production. Besides the the obvious problems of how that interferes with eating and good digestion, low saliva tends to destroy the health of the mouth. “Dry mouth” from Sjogren’s and other causes produces a strong tendency to develop many dental cavities, accelerated accumulation of plaque, severe gum disease and jaw bone loss involving periodontitis, and frequent and possibly chronic infections in the mouth with yeast, Candida, and other pathogens. Wounds or sores in the mouth also tend to be slower at healing due to low saliva levels.
In more than half of its victims, Sjogren’s syndrome also products chronic pain and fatigue symptoms that are poorly understood. It occurred to me that one of the biggest sources of chronic pain is chronic inflammation and that one of the biggest culprits behind systemic inflammation is poor dental health. An infected mouth tends to spew inflammatory cytokines throughout the body. This effect has been tied to elevated cardiovascular disease risk and even to higher risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. In my opinion, it could also explain part of the chronic pain and fatigue problems these people suffer.
Combatting dry mouth complications is difficult. For Sjogen’s patients and others with dry mouth, many mouthwashes (particularly those with alcohol) are problematic because they tend to further dry out mouth tissues. Toothpastes with sodium lauryl sulphate, a detergent used in many soaps, shampoos, and toothpastes, are also reputed to dry out mouth tissues and trigger more infections and canker sores.
Biotene brand toothpastes and mouthwashes have been suggested by many as a good alternative for Sjogren’s patients as they do not use sodium lauryl sulfate. The reviews are pretty good, enough that for somebody with dental health problems including dry mouth and inflammation that it would probably be worth a try.
The reasoning behind them makes sense to me, but I’m not convinced that everybody is equally sensitive to alcohol in mouthwashes or sodium lauryl sulfate in toothpaste. It is my opinion these products may help some and not help others, but in any case they are not going to be a total solution for somebody with severe dry mouth as many Sjogren’s patients have.
There is class of products called oral probiotics introduced starting around 2008 or 2009 that I have used myself that I think would make an excellent option for Sjogren’s patients or pretty much anybody else with less than stellar dental health to at least try for a few months. They can be used with or without the more health-safe toothpastes and mouthwashes. The cost per year is probably less than you’d pay for dental cleanings and exams and could be less than you’d pay for special toothpastes and mouthwashes. Based upon my own experience, oral probiotics may also make it possible for you to reduce your use of mouthwashes.
I’ve been thrilled with the results from the oral probiotic product I have used and would recommend trying it or another of this class of products for at least six months between typical dental checkups for anybody suffering from Sjogren’s or any other condition causing dry mouth, gum disease, or who is having trouble with excessive numbers of cavities or mouth sores.
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My Personal Experience
I used to have poor gum health including periodontitis and rapid plaque buildup despite regular brushing (often even four times per day), daily flossing, and using mouthwashes both morning and at bedtime. Most mornings my tongue was covered with what looked like a whitish slime that didn’t really brush off very well even with some effort. My morning breath was also not pleasant.
My dentist said I needed cleanings every three months and repeatedly lectured me on dental hygiene, even though I was already following the advice and brushing at least three times per day and flossing at least once per day. My gum inflammation measures, particularly the pockets around the molars, were very poor. The dentist noted some jaw bone loss in X-rays. I ended up getting multiple expensive and painful root canals. Fortunately I was not getting many cavities, but apart from that my oral health was poor despite reasonable effort put into it.
This sorry state of affairs seems to have been turned around for me by the use of Life Extension Advanced Oral Hygiene, a oral probiotic that seeds the mouth with beneficial bacteria that produce biochemicals that inhibit the growth of common bacteria that cause cavities and gum diseases. Since starting using one or two of these tablets per day about three years ago, my dental checkups have improved tremendously.
I could easily see myself that was a big improvement after a few months even without any input from the dentist. I no longer have the whitish slime on my tongue in the mornings, nor the bad morning breath. I no longer see obvious plaque accumulation on the back of my front lower teeth even many months after the last cleaning. And my gums bleed much less from brushing and flossing, too.
Even when I cut back my mouthwash usage to only at bedtime and skimped on professional dental care for a time and did not get an exam or cleaning for more than a year, the dentist said my teeth and gums were in much better condition than previously when I was getting more frequent cleanings and exams without using the oral probiotics. The gum pocket measurements improved across the board, but particularly around the molars where they were really bad previously.
How Oral Probiotics Work
No matter how much you brush, floss, and rinse with dental solutions, you are still left with a mouthful of bacteria and many of those bacteria are harmful to your teeth. The basic idea of dental probiotic lozenges is that by chewing or dissolving a probiotic lozenge containing “friendly” oral bacteria such as Bacillus coagulans and Streptococcus salivarius (the specific type used is the BLIS K12 bacteria), the bacterial flora in the mouth is shifted towards a higher percentage of bacteria that do not attack the body and in fact interfere with the growth of harmful bacteria.
These two bacterial species are very effective at impeding the growth of harmful oral bacteria. First, they consume food resources the harmful bacteria need to grow. Secondly, they produce and release biochemicals known as bacteriocins into surrounding tissues. The bacteriocins block the growth of many pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus that cause tooth cavities. They also impede the colonization, growth, and infection in the upper respiratory tract by Streptococcus pyogenes that causes diseases such as strep throat, rheumatic fever, and various skin infections that can become lethal if they spread deep into the body.
Dental Health Influences Mental Health
Some Sjogren’s patients note cognitive impairments similar to those you see in other chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis. It is quite possible that the appalling poor mouth health caused by very little saliva is causing some of these symptoms.
Quoted from Poor Oral Health May Be Related to Memory Loss
Richard Crout researches gum disease at the University of West Virginia School of Dentistry. He says in recent years, oral health researchers have found that tooth and gum disease have links to many other health problems – from heart disease to premature birth and pregnancy complications. Now they think there might be links to memory loss.
Crout says many dentists see older patients with memory loss who come into their offices with teeth that are a mess. Often that’s because these patients have forgotten to do the basics of self care.
“Now we know that if somebody has dementia or they are demented or they have Alzheimer’s, that they are going [to] potentially forget to brush or floss their teeth,” he says. “That would not be new, but what surprised us was the linkage between mild to moderate memory loss and oral disease.”
Crout and his students examined data from the NHANES [National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey], a national survey of Americans, which asked them about their health. Subjects in the study also had dental exams. And the data showed that people who reported tooth and gum disease had lower scores on tests that measured memory and cognition.
One hypothesis that would link oral disease and memory loss relies on new evidence about how tissue inflammation affects the brain.
“Our hypothesis is that there are inflammatory byproducts that come from the infection that exists in our mouths, particularly with the more advanced form of gum disease,” Crout says. “And these byproducts can then travel to areas of the brain that have been noted to be an area of concern for those patients with memory loss.”
The cause-and-effect relationships haven’t been determined yet. It may take decades of long-term studies to find definitive answers. However, even now it appears that it may work both directions, with bad memory leading to bad oral health and bad oral health leading to bad memory.
It is plausible that some memory and mind impairments are instigated in part by nasty bacterial activity in the mouth. Researchers have previously found substantial evidence tying poor oral health to cardiovascular disease risk due to body-wide inflammation processes triggered by such nasty bacteria in the mouth. So it’s not a big leap to expect that inflammation-related neurological problems including memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and some of the pain, fatigue, and cognitive symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome may also be adversely impacted by poor oral health.
If you have dry mouth, it is a reasonable hypothesis that you are going to be at much higher risk for these problems if you cannot find a way to stop your mouth from being a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Using Life Extension Advanced Oral Hygiene Probiotics
After some experimentation, I settled on using Life Extension Advanced Oral Hygiene. This is not the only oral probiotic product available, but I have found it works for me and as I try to stock up on sales it has been very cost effective, too.
My usage of oral probiotics has evolved over time. I first used them after morning brushing and believe that did help, but I think now that nighttime usage is more effective. Now I tend to use them after my bedtime dental care routine including brushing, flossing, a mouthrinse, and a second brushing with an electric toothbrush. After all that, I pop a lozenge in my mouth and work it around to coat my teeth and gums as I am falling asleep. I tend to notice the flavor lasts at least a few hours as if I wake up during the night, I can usually still taste the minty flavor. In the morning, even though the minty flavor is usually gone, my mouth no longer feels gross and my breath no longer smells foul like was common before I started using oral probiotics.
I sometimes use a second lozenge per day after brushing my teeth after breakfast or lunch, but most days it is just the one at bedtime. I think you should adjust your usage to try to keep them in your mouth during periods when you are not likely to be eating, drinking, or brushing for a few hours to give the lozenges time to work to their maximum potential.
Because Sjogren’s patients tend to have their lowest saliva levels at night, I suspect that the probiotic lozenges will be very effective at coating the inside of the mouth so it lasts at least several hours. This gives the beneficial bacteria time to colonize the mouth thoroughly so that they can fight off not only cavity and gum disease causing bacteria but also pathogens that can cause other infections. The beneficial bacteria can consume any remaining food residues in the mouth before hostile bacteria, yeast, Candida, or some other organisms get to them.
If you’re interested in learning more about the new oral probiotics, I recommend the article Optimal Oral Health Reduces Degenerative Diseases for additional information. It discusses what they are and how they are useful from a variety of angles such as preventing cavities and respiratory and ear infections, healing canker sores more quickly, reducing systemic inflammation that may contribute to cardiovascular disease and chronic pain and fatigue, and even simply fighting bad breath.
Other Oral Probiotics
Although I have been quite happy with the product I use and have recommended it to others who also like it, a few people say its minty taste is objectionable. Fortunately there are some alternatives with similar probiotic ingredients. I have also tried a strawberry flavored product from Swanson Vitamins and thought it tasted fine, but preferred the Life Extension product myself as it includes both the BLIS K12 probiotic bacteria plus the Bacillus coagulans probiotic bacteria whereas most other products only have BLIS K12.
NOW Foods has introduced a similar product, too. There is also a new chewing gum product that contains the BLIS K12 probiotic bacteria that is available in either raspberry-pomegranate or mint flavors. I haven’t tried either, but note that the chewing gum form is probably the most expensive costing nearly $1 per piece.
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