Probiotic oral cavity-reduction potential has bite, study shows

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

According to World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, there is a cavity prevalence of 17% in 2-y-old children, an increased prevalence of 48% at 4 y of age, and 70% prevalence in 6-y-old children. ©iStock
According to World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, there is a cavity prevalence of 17% in 2-y-old children, an increased prevalence of 48% at 4 y of age, and 70% prevalence in 6-y-old children. ©iStock

Related tags Probiotic Lactobacillus

A supplement containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus could enhance dental health by reducing tooth decay, according to a Chilean study.

Researchers from the University of Chile reported that the addition of Lactobacillus rhamnosus ​SP 1 ((L. rhamnosus)​ to milk appeared to reduce cavity prevalence compared to standard milk consumption.

It’s the latest study that investigates the use of probiotics in addressing oral health issues that arise from bacterial activity in the mouth. These can include cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis, or even halitosis (bad breath).

A unique community

Rather like the gut, the oral cavity has its own microbial community that has developed mechanisms to recognise their environment and avoid or adapt to the host.

It stands to reason that an imbalance between bacterial populations in the mouth may contribute to a number of dental diseases.

Kids teeth © iStock Marcel Braendli
When dental cavities occur at early stages in life, it may result in the tooth damage and pain, acute infections, nutritional deficiencies, which may require treatment.©iStock/Marcel Braendli

While the study used probiotic-enriched milk, much focus has been on other methods of delivery with gums, lozenges and even ice cream proving popular.

Ice cream is considered a good vehicle for ‘small’ or stable probiotic bacteria because it is kept frozen yet the water activity remains high.

In addition to L. rhamnosus ​other potentially beneficial bacteria under investigation include Streptococcus salivarius, Bifidobacterium lactis​ and Lactobacillus acidophilus.

The strain used here - L. rhamnosus SP1 - ​has previously been used in functional beverages​, Fior di Latte cheese​, and yoghurt.

Oral examination

The study was a triple-blind [not even monitoring committee knows which are control and research groups], placebo-controlled randomised trial in which 261 children aged two and three were randomly assigned to two groups.

One group was given 150 millilitres (mL) of milk supplemented with L. rhamnosus SP1​ (107​ colony forming units (CFU/mL)). Children in the control group were given standard milk.

This procedure was carried out on week days for 10 months. After this period, the cavity prevalence was 54.4% in the probiotic group and 65.8% in the control group.

The percentage of new individuals who developed cavitated lesions in the control group (24.3%) was significantly higher than that in the probiotic group (9.7%).

“A proposed mechanism of action that could explain the beneficial outcome observed in this research project is that the probiotic strain interferes with and modifies the oral biofilm,” ​the researchers speculated.

“This shifted the oral ecology toward more beneficial bacteria that produce fewer organic acids and thus maintain plaque and saliva pH in a state of equilibrium.”

The findings generally echo those that have found a reduction of cavity lesions​ or cavity risk factors​ using probiotics. However, a number of research papers observed these findings in adults, and older children.

Probitoics’ multi-beneficial reputation appeared to be upheld as the researchers reported no occurrences of gastrointestinal disorders or adverse effects as a result of probiotic intervention. This was observed despite this being beyond the scope of the study.

The oral microbiome has recently been implicated in the onset of migraines. A recent study​ pointed towards the mouth as responsible for bringing on the debilitating headaches that characterise the condition.

Source: Journal of Dental research

Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1177/0022034515623935

“Probiotic Compared with Standard Milk for High-caries Children: A Cluster Randomized Trial.”

Authors: R. Cabello et al.

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