Probiotic gums and candies show oral health potential

By Stephen Daniells in Miami

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oral health Lactobacillus

Probiotic bacteria that work in the presence of saliva and various sugars could soon be reducing rates of tooth decay in gums and candies, says a leading researcher.

Oral health is being tipped to be a big area for probiotics, but mainly in gum formulations. Euromonitor stated in a recent comment article: “Probiotics are in line to become the next blockbuster functional ingredients in gum and mints.”

Dr Christine Lang from Berlin-based Organobalance told attendees at the International Probiotics Association’s (IPA) World Congress in Miami that the concept of probiotics for oral health centres on Streptococcus mutans​, the main bacteria associated with tooth decay. S. mutans​ binds to teeth via aggregation, said Lang, forming dental plaque. The bacteria then convert sugar to acid, which attacks the enamel of the teeth.

Dr Lang and her co-workers screened 700 Lactobacillus strains, and found six which could bind to S. mutans​. Of these, Lactobacillus paracasei​ was found to aggregate best with S. mutans​.

The bacteria work in the presence of saliva and in the presence of sugars, including xylitol and sorbitol, so it can be formulated into candies and gums, said Dr Lang. She notes that these have been tested, as well as delivery as toothpaste, and they work. The bacteria are also active under the pH range 4 to 8, she added.

The probiotic is now distributed by BASF, and the German chemical giant is responsible for the further R&D of the ingredient.

Strain specifics

This is by no means the first report of the potential of probiotics to support healthy oral health. A study with 42 subjects with moderate gingivitis published recently in the journal Acta Odontologica Scandinavica​ showed benefits of Lactobacillus reuteri prodentis​ bacteria in a gum.

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

More recently, a pilot study using Yakult’s probiotic milk drink found that a daily dose of probiotics may reduce inflammation and bleeding in the mouth linked to gingivitis and gum disease (periodontitis).

Results published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology​ (2009, Vol. 36, pp. 850-856) indicated that the Lactobacillus casei​ strain Shirota may improve oral health based on its influence of the immune system.

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