Probiotics and prebiotics

What are dental probiotics and prebiotics?

Oral probiotics and prebiotics have the potential to improve overall mouth health, so why don’t we know more about them? What are oral, or dental, probiotics and what do they do, exactly?

Below, we’ll explain the difference between prebiotic and probiotic, exploring how we can look after our oral microbiome health with products with a prebiotic benefit that help strengthen the mouth’s natural defence system.  

The difference between prebiotic and probiotic

It’s natural to feel confused when thinking about probiotics for mouth health and the prebiotic benefits of certain products. What’s the difference between the two? To help demystify the situation, it’s worth noting general definitions for each term:

  • Probiotics are living strains of good bacteria.
  • Prebiotics support the good bacteria, giving them nutrition to help them thrive.

Eating foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics is one of the ways of strengthening our defences, along with other healthy lifestyle choices, like getting enough sleep and vitamin D, and eating fresh fruit and veg. As dentist Surina Sehgal advises:

There are ways to boost ‘good’ bacteria in the mouth through natural means. Intake of dietary fibre, prebiotics and probiotics have been proven to improve bacterial diversity.
Surinaimage mobile.tif

Dentist Surina Seghal

Examples of foods with probiotics1

  • Yogurts 
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha 
  • Pickles 


Foods with prebiotics include2

  • Apples 
  • Bananas 
  • Berries 
  • Garlic 
  • Legumes 
  • Tomatoes 
Bowl of blueberries

What are oral probiotics?

Probiotics are usually discussed in the context of gut health and the digestive system. But as digestion starts in the mouth3, thanks to the digestive enzymes present in saliva, it makes sense that there is growing interest in probiotics for mouth health, too.  

Oral, or dental, probiotics are specific strains of bacteria that are thought could help create a healthy oral microbiome – the bacterial ecosystem that exists inside the mouth. They do this by inhibiting bad (pathogenic) bacteria growth and encouraging good bacteria growth.

How dental probiotics can form part of a healthy microbiome

What do dental probiotics do for the oral microbiome? Dental probiotics are strains of bacteria that help support your oral health and promote the growth of good bacteria4, which become part of the plaque biofilms that form on the surfaces in the mouth. Good bacteria in these biofilms, the technical name for plaque that forms on the surface of your teeth, can help support gum and tooth health and keep bad bacteria away from gum tissue and tooth enamel.

Bad bacteria cause various oral health problems, from gum disease and cavities to bad breath, while good bacteria help to protect your mouth. So, to be healthy, the oral microbiome requires the right balance of bacteria.

Do dental probiotics work?

Research is still in the early stages in this growing area of study. While there isn’t substantial evidence yet, a 2017 study5 did conclude that probiotics have a role in maintaining oral health. And a 2019 study6 into probiotics and oral thrush (oral candidiasis) cautiously found that the intake of probiotics could have a beneficial effect on oral candidiasis. 

Different probiotic strains are thought to work better than others for different oral issues. For example, the strains you might look for to assist with cavities might differ from those that target bad breath. Or the link between specific probiotics and oral thrush would be different to the probiotics that might be researched in relation to gingivitis4.

The main prebiotic benefits

One way to encourage good bacteria is to provide a support system that helps stimulate growth, and that’s where prebiotics come in. By providing nutrition to help good bacteria flourish, prebiotics help to crowd out the bad bacteria. This contributes to creating a healthy balance in the microbiome, which is key to overall good health. 

How to look after your oral microbiome with toothpaste

Zendium toothpastes on counter

Zendium’s toothpaste has a prebiotic benefit because it’s clinically proven to boost good bacteria while reducing bad bacteria in the mouth.* This can help maintain your overall mouth microbiome health and support your mouth’s natural defences.

The natural enzymes and proteins in saliva inspired the mild formulation that’s gentle on delicate mouths, so Zendium Classic can get to work in an effective yet kind way.

Diagram of prebiotic benefits

* Refers to the gum health and gum problems associated bacterial species in dental plaque, which changed significantly over a 14-week clinical study with 102 subjects.​ 


1 NCBI – Probiotics: The Versatile Functional Food Ingredients

2 NCBI – Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications 

3 NIDDK – Your Digestive System and How it Works 

4 NCBI – Probiotics and Oral Health 

5 NCBI – Probiotics: A Promising Role in Dental Health 

6 NCBI – Effect of Probiotics on Oral Candidiasis 

The advice in this article does not constitute medical advice; it is solely available for information purposes. We recommend that you consult your dentist if you are experiencing any tooth or gum problems.