Written by: Hailey Motooka, Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Ellen M. Martin
(Yes, the pun in the title was intended.)
A new culture is coming, and it has nothing to do with the Kardashians or a sudden spike in kale consumption, but everything to do with the oral microbiome and health. Today’s demand for a straighter smile and whiter teeth has caused more people to invest money, time and effort into taking care of their mouths. Beyond cosmetics, another reason
people are spending more time and money on oral hygiene and probiotics is increasing awareness of the link between oral diseases and systemic diseases. New understanding of the oral microbiome is shaping how we think about caries, periodontal and systemic diseases. While the traditional view held that these diseases were caused by a limited number of specific pathogens, we now think of the oral microbiome as a finely tuned community, the balance of which determines not only oral health and disease, but also some systemic diseases (1)
Wait, How is it Connected Again?
The greatest amount of research connecting the oral microbiome to systemic diseases has focused on periodontal disease. Periodontal disease refers to inflammatory processes in the tissues surrounding the teeth, in response to bacterial biofilms, or dental plaque (2). Periodontal disease has been linked to a variety of systemic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer. More in depth information on this topic can be found here.
Qii was founded in 2016 in Toronto, Canada, as an oral-care dietary supplement tea. Scientists conducted experiments on the drink’s effectiveness by testing it against oral pathogens such as Streptococcus mutans (tooth decay and cavities), Porphyromonas gingivalis (gingivitis) and Solobacterium moorei (halitosis). Presence of such bacteria indicate an imbalance in the oral microbiome. Results showed that the drink was able to reduce plaque by as much as 52% (for the lychee flavor only!).
But it’s just a drink..
And it is just a drink. However, Qii sets itself apart from other supplemental drinks for two reasons, the first reason is that it maintains a shelf-stability pH around 7. This is important because when a tooth is exposed to an acidic environment of pH 5.5 or below, the acids involved can damage the hard tissues such as enamel and dentin (3). The following figure demonstrates the pH of qii as compared with common commercial beverages sold in the United States.
“With a shelf-stable pH around 7, it helps maintain a neutral, non-acidic oral environment that allows the beneficial bacteria in your mouth to thrive”
The second reason qii is quite different from other beverages is its use of xylitol, a cavity-preventing, sugar-alcohol sweetener found naturally in fruit, vegetables, and berries. Xylitol has been found to reduce dental caries and is globally accepted as a safe natural sweetener approved by the US Food Drug and Administration as well as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (4). Xylitol is basically the SpiderMan of the “New Oral Health Movement”, providing spunk, versatility and benefaction to the public in the form of a can. However, as the famous saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”, xylitol taken in large amounts may have negative side effects such as bloating and diarrhea. It is also important to keep in mind that the amount of research conducted on the product’s effect on oral health is minimal, and therefore should not be considered as a replacement for regular oral hygiene practices.
In other words, drinking one before bedtime and one before you wake up will not provide a substitute for brushing your teeth. Not to mention that it will not prevent morning breath either, so best not to skimp out on the mouthwash.
If the scientific basis for a drink that can reduce 52% of dental plaque isn’t convincing enough for you, consider maintaining proper balance in the oral microbiome through supplemental probiotics. Probiotics are “living microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (5). Due to new microbial discoveries, probiotics are now being considered as the new frontier in medicine. There has recently been a growing interest in applying probiotics to the second largest bacterial community in the human body: the oral microbiome. Check out the video below to find out what exactly oral probiotics are, and how they are influential to keeping you feeling your best.
Hyperbiotics is a company implementing the latest research to develop probiotic formulas. The company is a strong believer in the potential of functional medicine as well as embracing the responsibility to reduce carbon footprints in the process. One of their unique products is their PRO-Dental probiotic formula in a chewable mint tablet form designed to target strains for oral health. The formula utilizes the unique properties of probiotic S. salivarius M18, which produces an enzyme that helps dissolve and loosen the formation of biofilm and sticky deposits. Not only this, but the lack of S. salivarius is also common amongst people who suffer from bad breath. According to various consumer reviews, the Hyperbiotics PRO-Dental is effective for the short term benefits. However, there is lack of evidence and research to suggest that the probiotic will contribute to a long-term solution.
Last but Not Least… BLIS-K12
Another probiotic used in the Hyperbiotics PRO-Dental formula is S. salivarius K-12.
BLIS K12™ is the first probiotic specifically developed to support ear and throat health, as well as promote fresh breath
The probiotic was first discovered and isolated by Professor John Tagg at the University of Otago in New Zealand. K-12 is the result of a long study in which Dr. Tagg followed New Zealand school children throughout many years and analyzed their saliva compositions for comparison. Eventually, the S. salivarius K-12 strain was isolated and can now be found as an ingredient in chewable tablets, lozenges, chewing gum, and other products seeking to improve throat and mouth health (6). It is a notable advancement in the microbiology field as more light is shed on the teeny little bacteria in our bodies that have the potential to make large-scale changes to improve systemic health.
Why This All Matters So Much
We still remain skeptical as to whether or not the items discussed above truly contribute to beneficial health changes. However, we remain hopeful by delving deeper into the research that has opened doors for other companies looking to apply biopharmaceuticals to their own products. The availability of these items, which can be bought on the market or over the counter, provides patients with the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat in the vehicle of personal health rather than remaining uninvolved in the backseat. It promotes an experimental mindset aka biohacking, which is essentially making changes to your lifestyle in order to “hack” your body’s biology and feel better. It’s exciting, it’s empowering, and it’s gaining momentum. So we should look to embrace this new culture with open arms.
What are some interesting biohacking methods that you implement in your daily life?
- Zhang, Xuan, et al. “The Oral and Gut Microbiomes Are Perturbed in Rheumatoid Arthritis and Partly Normalized after Treatment.” Nature Medicine, vol. 21, no. 8, 2015, pp. 895–905., doi:10.1038/nm.3914.
- Bingham, Clifton O., and Malini Moni. “Periodontal Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis: the Evidence Accumulates for Complex Pathobiologic Interactions.” Current Opinion in Rheumatology, vol. 25, no. 3, May 2013, pp. 345–353., doi:10.1097/bor.0b013e32835fb8ec.
- Hicks, John, et al. “Biological Factors in Dental Caries Enamel Structure and the Caries Process in the Dynamic Process of Demineralization and Remineralization (Part 2).” Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry, vol. 28, no. 2, 2005, pp. 119–124., doi:10.17796/jcpd.28.2.617404w302446411.
- Nayak, Prathibha Anand, et al. “The Effect of Xylitol on Dental Caries and Oral Flora.” Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry, 2014, pp. 89–94., doi:10.2147/ccide.s55761.
- Hill, Colin, et al. “The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics Consensus Statement on the Scope and Appropriate Use of the Term Probiotic.” Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, vol. 11, no. 8, Oct. 2014, pp. 506–514., doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2014.66.
- “What Is BLIS K12?” BLIS K12, www.blisk12.com/what-is-blis-k12/.