Take note, Listerine.
In the near future, the cause of our stinky morning breath could be the thing that helps us beat it.
Our body is filled with trillions microorganisms. Some of those microbes hang out in our mouth, which is nice and humid. While we sleep, our mouths sometimes dry out, which can kill off some good bacteria and cause gas-emitting bacteria to thrive. That’s the reason you sometimes wake up with a putrid-smelling mouth.
But, there’s a solution, and its name is Streptococcous 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 one of us, collectively called our microbiome, help keep our body running. Unfortunately, things we do — like taking antibiotics, for example — can wipe out many of these beneficial microbes, throwing off the balance.
Susan Perkins, one of the curators of a recent exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History focused on the microbiome, told Business Insider she wouldn’t be surprised if we started using bacteria to treat morning breath within the year.
A 2006 study of 23 people with halitosis, or 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.
Ideally, this probiotic could be used in addition to mouth washes like Listerine, which kill all the bacteria — good and bad — in your mouth. Andrea Azcarate-Peril, the 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 FDA, 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. 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.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.