Bacteria Found in Pickles Helps Improve Oral Health & Reduce Caries

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It’s long been established that there’s a clear bidirectional relationship between the foods your patients eat and the state of their oral health. However, the exact specifics of this relationship is incredibly complex. For instance, we know that acidic foods increase the risks of erosive tooth wear. But a recent study has actually identified the benefits of one type of acidic food: Pickles.

The Connection Between Dental Caries and Bacteria

Many patients likely focus on common nutritional approaches, such as managing sugar consumption and proper homecare when it comes to preventing dental caries. However, studies dating as far back as the late-1900s have noted a correlation between tooth decay and bacteria in the human oral activity.

A specific strain of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, has been well-established to be a risk factor in tooth decay. The higher the levels of this pathogenic bacteria strain, the greater the risks of caries.

In an effort to counter such pathogenic bacteria, professional dental products containing beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been developed. However, clinical trials have not yet demonstrated a clear benefit for dental caries. Some studies have shown a benefit, while others have shown no change, leading to no clear picture of the best recommendations for dental professionals to give to their patients regarding oral probiotics.

But brand-new research highlights how another bacteria strain, this one found in pickles, effectively and significantly counters S. mutans and may help to improve dental health.

Study Highlights How Newly Isolated Strain of Bacteria in Pickles May Impact the Risks of Dental Caries

The study, published in the Frontiers in Microbiology, specifically analyzed Chinese pickles.

Researchers chose this specific food item because pickles are a very popular food item in southwest China, and thus there was a well-established fermentation process to analyze and study.

The researchers used 14 different types of pickles and extracted more than 50 distinct strains of Lactobacilli from the fermented food. One specific strain, L. plantarum, was one of the most widely used in the pickles and one of the major contributors to the fermentation process.

After isolating this specific strain, the researchers then analyzed the activity of S. mutans in the presence of L. plantarum. The results were significant. In analyzing the biofilm, the study found that L. plantarum reduced S. mutans by 98.4%.  This was a much clearer and more significant change than seen with other probiotic strains in other studies.

More importantly, the study also tested Lactobacillus’s ability to tolerate acid and salt (which is present in pickles).

They discovered that this beneficial bacteria survived these harsh conditions well, meaning it would very likely survive the harsh conditions found in a patient’s oral cavity. “The survival rates of all strains were over 75%,” report the researchers.

What This Study Means for the Food Industry and the Dental Industry

Dentists and dental hygienists receive many questions about how diet and nutrition affect oral health, especially as it relates to probiotics (whether that’s probiotics in foods or probiotics in supplements).

This new study concludes that there are several opportunities for both the food industry and the dental industry, including potentially adding L. plantarum to dairy products and other foods and incorporating L. plantarum into dental products and dental treatments.

Until such products arrive, dental hygienists and other dental professionals can continue to educate their patients on the importance of maintaining a healthy bacteria microbiome through a diet rich in fermented foods. As has been made evident in the past, not all strains of bacteria have the same effects, and it’s clear that there are food groups (such as the pickles analyzed) that contain various strains of bacteria that may improve the bacteria balance in the oral cavity.

By encouraging a healthy, varied diet, dental professionals can support their patients’ efforts to reduce the incidence of S. mutans and dental caries.

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