Natural Ways to Keep Bad Oral Bacteria Under Wraps
Bad bacteria and cavities in kids
Even though its well known that dental decay is kind of complicated, the one thing that is pretty well established is the bacteria that live in a person’s mouth play a huge role in how susceptible a person might be to cavities. Those with higher concentration of cavity causing bacteria (like mutans streptococci) end up getting more cavities, faster, than people with less number of these bacteria in their mouth. This all makes sense when we see that good brushing technique that removes the plaque (which houses the bacteria) effectively goes hand in hand with reduced decay. Other than brushing and its mechanical removal of these bacteria, there are chemical agents that have been used. Of course, ideally, researchers would come up with a antibiotic that would selectively rid the mouth of cavity causing bacteria, but no such therapies have become reality given the complexity of the bioflora in the human mouth. We do have agents and medications that can transiently reduce the bacterial count (like over-the-counter mouthwashes and prescription oral antiseptics like Chlorhexidine). The safety of these agents requires lots of careful consideration if used in children, not to mention the reality that the oral bacteria reset their numbers back to pre-rinse concentrations rather quickly.
There’s got to be another way
More recently, we’re seeing researchers identifying naturally occurring ingredients that seem to also reduce the bacterial count. You may have heard of Xylitol, a non-fermentable naturally occurring sugar that also inhibits the growth of Strep pneumoniae and other cavity causing bacteria when ingested in therapeutic doses. Another agent worth mentioning is Omega-3. Its dental benefits seem to include anti-bacterial effects against a range of oral microbes as published in a University of Kentucky study. The US National Institute of Health sponsored study found 6 compounds with 50% inhibitory activity. According to Nutraingredients.com, the study looked at the effects of EPA, DHA, ALA and their fatty acid ethyl esters, ALAEE, EPAEE, DHAEE on a variety of mouth bacteria. All the omega-3 compounds studied were found to exhibit strong bacteria fighting abilities.
So bacteria play a big role in children’s dental decay and healthy oral hygiene habits and healthy dietary choices can make a real difference for parents determined to keep their children cavity free.
Dr. Eftekhari is a proud San Diego native. She received her doctorate from University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 2003 as one of their youngest ever graduates. She enjoys the challenges and rewards of interacting with her young patients and their parents as the Director of Pharmacy Services and Clinical Pharmacists at the Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Loma Linda. She loves balancing her career and being a mother to her 3 year old active little man, Arman. At home, when she’s not chasing after Arman, she enjoys dancing, cooking, and swimming.