Scientist - News - 28-11-2008:«Back
Probiotics have potential to improve oral health
Two studies have recently shown that probiotics, administered in the form of ice cream or chewing gum, can deliver direct oral health benefits. Various companies are jumping at this niche.
The oral microflora contains at least 500 different species of bacteria. Some of these contribute to our oral health: they help control the bacteria that cause gingivitis (gum infection), cavities and halitosis (bad breath).
Leatherhead Food International, a British company, is starting a research project together with the Dental Institute at King’s College in London to study the potential of probiotics to improve oral health. The researchers will focus on the effects, optimal dosage and delivery mechanisms of various probiotic strains.
Direct and indirect effect
Meanwhile, two Danish studies have yielded some hopeful preliminary results. Both studies were led by prof. Svante Twetman from the Department of Cariology and Endodontics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. The first study, published in the January issue of the Acta Odontologica Scandinavica, showed that daily consumption of ice cream containing the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis significantly reduces the salivary levels of mutans streptococci, one of the main causes of oral infections and cavities. This, as Twetman points out, is a short-term, direct effect: "Probiotic bacteria can survive and grow in saliva, attach to the oral biofilm and release bacteriotoxins. However, they do not seem to colonise permanently."
However, an indirect, systemic effect that improves oral health may also be possible. In a second study, published in the November issue of the same journal, Twetman showed that the intake of probiotic bacteria can modify the pro-inflammatory cascade of cytokines in the fluid of the teeth pockets. This study used chewing gum as a means to administer Lactobacillus reuteri prodentis. Forty-two patients with moderate gingivitis received either prodentis-containing gum or a placebo for two weeks. Gum bleeding was significantly reduced in groups taking either one or two gums per day. "This is probably due to a combination of direct and indirect effects," says Twetman. It is the first time that such changes caused by oral health probiotics are recorded in a clinical setting.
Twetman concludes that there is potential for probiotic products such as ice cream and chewing gum to be used as oral disease prevention among the general population. UK-based Leatherhead Food International is awaiting the results of its own trial, while Unilever introduced its first probiotics-containing ice cream onto the British market last April. It is planning to widen its scope beyond Britain, as well as introduce chewing gums that contain probiotics.
Twetman’s ice cream study in Acta Odontologica Scandinavica
Press release from BioGaia on Twetman’s chewing gum study