Step away from the mouth wash.
In the near future, the source of our stinky morning breath could be the thing that helps us beat it.
Our body is filled with trillions of microorganisms, some of which hang out in our nice and humid mouths. But while we sleep, our mouths often get dried out, which can kill off some good bacteria. In their absence, the stinky gas-emitting bacteria thrive, which is why you sometimes wake up with a foul-smelling mouth.
But there could be a solution. Its name is Streptococcus salivarius K12. Researchers think the bacteria strain could soon be put into a lozenge or spray and used as a probiotic, or beneficial mix of bacteria, to knock out the bad bacteria that causes bad breath.
The delicate balance of microbes living inside each of us, collectively called our microbiome, help keep our body running. Unfortunately, when we take antibiotics or use an antibacterial hand wash, those actions can wipe out many of these beneficial microbes, which throws off the balance in our bodies.
So, researchers have been exploring ways to make it right, taking a particular interest in S. salivarius K12. A 2006 study of 23 people with halitosis (bad breath) found that those given S. salivarius K12 lozenges had lower levels of smelly breath. The participants started by using an antimicrobial mouthwash followed by either a placebo lozenge or one with S. salivarius K12. They found that the addition of the bacteria reduced the levels of smelly breath better than the mouthwash on its own. A follow-up study in 2011 on 53 participants demonstrated the safety of the probiotic, though larger studies would likely need to happen before we all start adding doses of bacteria to our body.
Ideally, this probiotic could be used in addition to antiseptic mouthwashes like Listerine, which kill all the bacteria — good and bad — in your mouth. Andrea Azcarate-Peril, director of the University of North Carolina’s Microbiome Research Core, told Business Insider that antibacterial solutions like mouthwash and hand sanitizer are being overused to the point where they could be doing more harm than good.
“We are just too clean,” she said.
But probiotics aren’t a perfect solution either — at least not yet. We still don’t know everything about the bacteria in our bodies, and not every probiotic works for every person. Plus, probiotics still aren’t regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, so it’s a little tricky to know if the supplements people are taking are actually doing what they say they are.
Even so, the probiotics industry is expanding. Susan Perkins, one of the curators of an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History focused on the microbiome, told Business Insider in November that she wouldn’t be surprised if we started using bacteria to treat morning breath within the year. Eventually, the hope is to eventually use these probiotics to treat everything from cancer to bad body odor, said Perkins.
In the meantime, keep your eye out for S. salivarius K12, possibly coming soon to a drugstore near you.
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