Need better teeth?

By | Health & Wellness
Could candy improve your oral health? Credit image@ Jarret Morrow

Need sparkling white, cavity free teeth? Better start eating candy. However, it is far from the gummy bears and Haribo which might give an actor’s set of teeth, instead it’s specially designed candy which may benefit oral health.

A pilot study created by a team lead by Dr. Caterina Holz, doctorate in biotechnology and Director of Clinical Research at ORGANOBALANCE, a company which develops probiotics to help with targeted benefits on health, has devised a way of reducing so called “unproductive” bacteria in order to promote healthy oral health.

Streptococcus mutans is one of the leading microbes which cause caries in teeth, according to the paper published in Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins. This species has been known to science for almost one hundred years, using the enzyme glucansucrase to metabolize sugar into lactic acid, while using the sucrose from the digested sugar to form a sticky biofilm which allows the bacterium to cohere to the tooth enamel surface. In turn, this acidic environment produced by the lactic acid which may causes tooth decay.

These bacteria often occur in suspension in saliva, where they re-adhere to teeth, or get swallowed and digested in the stomach. Dr. Holz and her team thought that if they are able to prevent re-adhesion to tooth enamel surface, the number of Streptococcus mutans in saliva might decrease, promoting better oral health and reduced caries.

In order to do this, the team set up a placebo controlled, double blind test, whereby even the scientists are blind to what may be being given to their test subjects, to analyze the effects of heat affected Lactobacillus para-casei DSMZ16671, a type of probiotic microorganism, on oral Streptococcus mutans. 

Previous experiments had shown the beneficial effects of the same probiotic in rats, and the team wanted to see if the results applied to humans. In order to get the probiotic into the oral cavity, the team added the Lactobacillus to hard-boiled, sugar free sweets, an adequate delivery mechanism as it promotes the production of saliva. These were taken four times a day. Here, the probiotic, varying in concentration (zero, one and two milligrams per sweet), would mix with the saliva of the individual.

The theory was the Lactobacillus may aggregate with the Streptococcus already in suspension in the saliva, preventing them from sticking to the tooth surface and increasing its chance of getting swallowed and digested.

The results from the two day experiment seemed to confirm the theory: participants who took the probiotic sweets all showed reductions in salivary Streptococcus populations, with those taking sweets at a higher concentration of Lactobacillus showing more significant reductions. The authors, despite this experiment being only a pilot test to evaluate various parameters such as cost and feasibility, while looking for any adverse effects, were particularly impressed at how quickly the amount of salivary Streptococcus decreased in the mouth.

Interestingly, the placebo group showed reductions of the bacterium in the saliva, however this decrease was statistically insignificant, with the authors citing the Hawthorne effect, whereby people participating in a study modify their behavior if they know what the study is looking for, as a possible cause.

What made the research particularly promising may be the probiotics in the sweets selectively reduced the quantities of the Streptococcus, leaving positive oral microorganisms in the mouth, benefiting oral health. Furthermore the use of far from alive Lactobacillus meant there were zero minor complications associated with using live strains, while the researchers mention the simple act of salivating, with or without probiotic sweets, is beneficial to oral health.

What further advanced research are being revealed in oral health? 


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