Bacteria in Chinese Pickles Can Prevent Cavities, According to Researchers at Ben-Gurion University and Sichuan University

Can a probiotic derived from Chinese pickles prevent cavities? That seems to be the case, according to a study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Chengdu University in China.

Pickles are an integral part of the diet in the southwest of China. When fruits and vegetables are fermented, healthy bacteria break down the natural sugars. These bacteria, also known as probiotics, not only preserve foods but offer numerous benefits, including immune system regulation, stabilization of the intestinal microbiota, reducing cholesterol levels, and now inhibiting tooth decay.

According to the study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, a strain of Lactobacilli (L. plantarum K41) found in Sichuan pickles reduced S. mutans by 98.4%. Dental caries (cavities) are caused by Streptococcus mutans, (S. mutans) commonly found in the human oral cavity as plaque and is a significant contributor to tooth decay. 

Prof. Ariel Kushmaro of the BGU Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and the Chinese research team evaluated 14 different types of Sichuan pickles from southwest China. They extracted 54 different strains of Lactobacilli and found that one, L. plantarum K41, significantly reduced the incidence and severity of cavities. K41 was also highly tolerant of acids and salts, an additional benefit as a probiotic for harsh oral conditions. It also could have potential commercial value when added to dairy products.

According to Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev based in New York City, “the researchers currently have no plans to evaluate Jewish deli pickles.”

Kushmaro participated in the research along with a group of researchers at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. They included: Guojian Zhang, Miao Lu, Viet Ha Vu,  Yuqing Li, Rongmei Liu, Yuanyuan Tian, Yang Li, Bao Liu, and Qun Sun.

The research was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31870065), the National Key Research and Development Projects (SQ2019YFE010495), and the Key Research and Development Program of Sichuan (2018HH0030 and 2017FZ0018).

New study finds water fluoridation reduces the number of children admitted to hospital for dental treatment under GA

Children living in greatest deprivation have most to gain from having a fluoridated drinking water supply, according to new research. Fluoride is added to water in order to prevent tooth decay and the new study demonstrates that community water fluoridation is particularly beneficial for the youngest children in the poorest communities.  

The research was carried out in New Zealand and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. It adds to the body of research demonstrating that community water fluoridation (CWF) reduces dental health inequalities.  The key findings of the research are:

  • Children from the most deprived areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital for the treatment of pain or sepsis (abscesses) caused by dental decay
  • Fluoridation of the water supply reduces the number of children being admitted to hospital for dental extractions under a general anaesthetic
  • The youngest children in the 0-4 age category in the most deprived areas benefit most from water fluoridation

In New Zealand, around 60% of the population benefits from fluoridated water, mostly city-dwellers. The team from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch compared the number of hospital visits of children in 0-4 and 5-12 age categories from both fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.

Professor Mike Lennon, a member of the British Fluoridation Society’s executive, said: “This paper shows the evidence supporting the benefits of fluoride in drinking water is getting stronger. It demonstrates that you can reduce the risk of negative dental experiences for children from poor homes. Without fluoride in the water, they are more likely to end up in hospital with toothache.”

The role of water fluoridation in reducing health inequalities was identified in the UK in the University of York Systematic Review of 2000.  Since then, the evidence base has continued to grow with more research undertaken in the UK as well as Israel, Korea and Australia.

Professor Lennon said the data collected by the team from the University of Canterbury had been rigorously analysed. Their focus was ambulatory sensitive hospitalisation (ASH) which are hospital outpatient admissions for preventable conditions, in this instance for tooth decay and infection.

Comparisons were carried out between different census areas and then adjusted for factors which could negatively influence the result, such as living miles away from a dental practice. The overall conclusion of the study is: “As deprived areas have the highest incidence of dental ASH, caries and poor oral health, those who live in the most deprived areas have the most to gain from CWF. In summary, our study supports evidence linking CWF to better health in children. Variation in CWF contributes to structural inequities in oral-health outcomes for children.”

Simon Hearnshaw, the Chair of the Local Dental Network for North Yorkshire and Humber and coordinator of the National Community Water Fluoridation Network, welcomed the research, saying: “This paper provides more support for the argument that fluoridation is effective and reduces the social-health gradient. The challenge now is to implement schemes to bring these important benefits to deprived communities.”

The latest research is entitled: Area-level deprivation, childhood dental ambulatory sensitive hospitalizations and community water fluoridation: evidence from New Zealand

Dental neglect: Children falling through the cracks in “siloed health service”

The BDA has renewed its call for a joined-up strategy on children’s oral health, as new research reveals that GPs are not given the time or training to spot the tell-tale signs of dental neglect.1

The study, published in the British Dental Journal, surveyed all GPs in the Isle of Wight about their awareness and perceptions of dental health care in the identification of abuse. Among these family doctors, usually the first point of contact with the NHS, the majority had never liaised with a dentist. 96 per cent of respondents had never received any formal dental training and some did not perceive dental health to be important. Only five GPs mentioned a link between a lack of dental registration and childhood neglect and no GPs worked at clinics where child dental registration status was recorded.

Dental neglect is a marker of child neglect. It was defined in 2009 in the UK as “the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic oral health needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of a child’s oral or general health or development.” The research demonstrates that GPs lack time, training and confidence to identify dental neglect during routine examination of the oropharynx, and lack awareness of dental neglect as a potential marker of wider systemic neglect.

The study also notes that the sheer ubiquity of dental neglect within the general population may have desensitised many health practitioners to its wider social and health consequences, and blurred the lines between neglect and economic deprivation.

Official data shows that 41.8 per cent of children in England had not been to see a dentist for a check-up in the 12 months up to June 2017. Tooth decay remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among children across the UK. The BDA believes that progress can only be achieved by breaking down silos across the health service, along with co-ordinated and properly funded public health interventions.

The BDA’s Chair of General Dental Practice, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said: “Tooth decay can be a tell-tale sign of abuse or neglect, and many children are falling through the cracks in a siloed health service. GPs bear an enormous burden and it cannot fall to them to ‘multitask’, when government is failing to deal with the problem.

“Tooth decay is the number one reason for child hospital admissions, but dentists are not seeing those at most risk early enough to make a difference. Poverty, neglect or ignorance can be huge barriers to good oral health, and we desperately need joined-up policymaking to tackle them.

“Oral health has such a low profile that it is not surprising that awareness of its importance is low in other parts of the NHS. When we face an epidemic of decay, dentistry can’t be left in a corner. Without meaningful engagement in education, in media and across the health service we simply cannot expect progress.”

  1. See: Colgan, S.M et al (2018). ‘Bridging the gap’ – A survey of medical GPs’ awareness of child dental neglect as a marker of potential systemic child neglect, The British Dental Journal, published 11 May 2018