In search of probiotics' oral potential

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Oral health, Lactobacillus, Gut flora, Probiotic

UK-based Leatherhead Food International (LFI) is seeking commercial interest for a research project that will explore the potential of probiotics to deliver oral health benefits.

The project is being undertaken in conjunction with the Dental Institute at King’s College in London, and will investigate various probiotic strains, dosage, delivery mechanisms and oral benefits such as reduced dental caries and halitosis.

LFI hopes the two-year collaborative study will commence early next year, given sufficient financial backing, with preliminary results released after one year.

Leatherhead head of food safety, Dr Evangelia Komitopoulou, said the study was provoked by a small number of in vitro ​and clinical trials that had demonstrated a probable benefit for probiotic-linked oral health, but called for further research.

“The few studies completed in the area show oral health promise so we think it is time to take it further,”​ Dr Komitopoulou told “King’s College have many strains ready to be tested and they are one of the world’s leading experts in oral health.”

Leatherhead has done much investigation of its own into prebiotics and probiotics – but most of it has focused on gut health, an area Komitopoulou said had been researched in abundance.

Study detail

She said the delivery mechanism was particularly important in oral health because “contact time”​ in the mouth was often minimal. Yoghurts, drinks and supplements that have become popular as probiotic matrices may prove less effective than, say, chewing gum.

The study’s other aims included:

  • determine the oral community structure of oral lactobacillus and bifidobacterial populations;
  • determine which strains among the lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and oral streptococci families best adhere to oral surfaces, co-aggregate with oral biofilm bacteria, exhibit desirable and non-desirable enzyme activities as well as antimicrobial susceptibility.
  • monitor the ability of existing and candidate probiotics to colonise the human mouth and inhibit marker organisms for dental caries.

Bleeding gums

Another study published recently in the journal, Acta Odontologica Scandinavica​, showed Lactobacillus reuteri prodentis​ bacteria could benefit gingervitis, otherwise known as bleeding or inflamed gums.

The Danish researchers used BioGaia’s proprietary probiotic strain and found its interaction with the immune system could boost oral health.

Lead researcher,​Professor Svante Twetman, from the department of Cariology and Endodontics at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said the study supported earlier probiotic gingervitis findings and showed other potentialities.

”[The study] points towards an extended mechanism of action beyond the ability of fighting off pathogens. Our immune system involves mediators that promote inflammation when they are ‘turned on’. Our results suggest that these mediators can be down-regulated by L. reuteri Prodentis.”

In the study, 42 subjects with moderate gingivitis received either Prodentis-containing gum or a placebo for two weeks. Bleeding was significantly reduced in groups taking either one or two gums per day while no change was recorded in the control group.

The oral cavity typically houses a balanced microflora of more than 500 different species.

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