Harnessing Pickle Power to Promote Dental Health
June 10, 2020
The Times of Israel — Pickles, a heimishe classic, may also be a dentist’s dream, with new BGU research suggesting that they can protect teeth from cavities.
When scientists from two pickle-passionate nations, Israel and China, put their heads together to advance dental care, their thoughts turned to pickles. A BGU research team has partnered with China’s Sichuan University, and their findings conclude that probiotics produced in the pickling process can slow the buildup of plaque.
Prof. Ariel Kushmaro of BGU’s Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering notes that it could even change oral hygiene products like mouthwash, which generally rely on anti-bacterial chemicals and fluoride.
“This could lead to probiotic mouth treatments; there are lots of possible applications,” says Prof. Kushmaro. “The main idea is that probiotics can reduce pathogenic bacteria in the mouth — that could mean you have fewer problems with oral hygiene.”
After the researchers infected two groups of rats with a dose of cavity-causing bacteria designed to significantly speed tooth decay and monitored them for 35 days, the group that received probiotics from pickles had 20% to 30% fewer cavities.
The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, isn’t just good news for pickle-lovers, but could have far-reaching implications for oral health. It opens up the possibility of using probiotics to maintain dental health, notes BGU environmental biologist Prof. Ariel Kushmaro.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are thought to have health benefits. Yogurts contain them, as do many fermented foods, pickles, and lots of beauty products and food supplements. Researchers decided to explore their relevance to oral hygiene because of their known benefits in other areas.
The pickle-probing team tested 54 strains of bacteria isolated from pickled cabbage that is popular in Sichuan — and has long been said to have health benefits.
All of the bacteria were Lactobacillus from the lactic acid bacteria group. Some showed benefits but one in particular, Lactobacillus plantarum K41, was particularly effective in reducing the build-up of plaque and preventing cavities.
While the research focused on Sichuan pickled cabbage, Prof. Ariel Kushmaro says the production process is similar to that used for lots of other pickles, including many heimishe cucumbers, and suspects that they also contain bacteria that could help oral hygiene.
“We isolated different bacteria from the pickles and then used them to create probiotics,” says Prof. Ariel Kushmaro. “We proved that they inhibit the bacteria that are responsible for the formation of biofilm, which initiates plaque, and we demonstrated that we can inhibit the level of cavities.”
The research team’s results offer a potential alternative strategy for the control of oral biofilm, dental plaque and dental caries (cavities).