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We tell children to avoid sugary treats as these may cause tooth decay, but in a probiotic clinical trial 60 children were asked to eat ice cream to see if it helped to STOP them from forming dental cavities!
A study1 published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research used ice cream as a vehicle to test the effectiveness of probiotic bacteria on oral health. Despite the presence of sugar in the probiotic ice cream, it was still shown to reduce the incidence of oral cavities in the test subjects. The bacterial species Streptococcus mutans (MS) is one of the most common causes of dental caries in human, as it converts sugars to acid which then degrades the enamel on our teeth.
A successful attempt was made to suppress the activity of this cavity-inducing oral intruder using probiotic cultures: after just a week of eating probiotic ice-cream containing two probiotic strains, Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® and Lactobacillus acidophilus La-05®, saliva samples from participants indicated a significant reduction in the levels of undesirable bacteria present in their mouths.
For the purposes of the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, a group of children aged between six and twelve years of age were randomly divided into two groups. Samples of their saliva were taken at the start of the test period, and the levels of Streptococcus mutans measured. Over a seven day period, the children were either given normal ice cream, or a probiotic version containing 1 million colony-forming units (CFUs) of each strain of probiotic bacteria.
While those who were given the standard ice cream saw no change in oral populations of S. mutans, those who had consumed the probiotic ice cream had much lower levels of the harmful bacteria. Even after a 30 day washout period, the effect of the probiotics was still evident, though after six months this effect had diminished, suggesting that regular probiotic supplementation was necessary to maintain the positive results.
The study concluded:
“Probiotic ice-cream containing Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® and Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-05® can cause reduction in caries causative organism. The dosage of the probiotic organisms for the long term or synergetic effect on the oral health are still needed to be explored."
If you are interested in reading more about how probiotics can help to keep our mouths as well as our tums in tip top condition, then read these other articles from our Probiotics Learning Lab:
Two studies show probiotics help oral health
Kissing keeps your mouth healthy