There has been a paradigm shift towards an ecological and microbial community-based approach to understanding oral diseases. This has significant implications for approaches to therapy and has raised the possibility of developing novel strategies through manipulation of the resident oral microbiota and modulation of host immune responses. The increased popularity of using probiotic bacteria and/or prebiotic supplements to improve gastrointestinal health has prompted interest in the utility of this approach for oral applications. Evidence now suggests that probiotics may function not only by direct inhibition of, or enhanced competition with, pathogenic micro-organisms, but also by more subtle mechanisms including modulation of the mucosal immune system. Similarly, prebiotics could promote the growth of beneficial micro-organisms that comprise part of the resident microbiota. The evidence for the use of pro or prebiotics for the prevention of caries or periodontal diseases is reviewed, and issues that could arise from their use, as well as questions that still need to be answered, are raised. A complete understanding of the broad ecological changes induced in the mouth by probiotics or prebiotics will be essential to assess their long-term consequences for oral health and disease.
- Periodontal diseases