A Moment of Science

Honeybees and Cavities

Did you know that honey from Brazilian honeybees might help prevent cavities?

Honeybees make a substance called propolis; researchers have good reason to believe that propolis will prevent plaque from building up on our teeth, as well as possibly preventing cavities. They’ve tested it on rats since they form cavities the same way that humans do. The results were that the cavity rate in these rats was cut by about 60%. On top of that, the propolis nearly halted the activity of key enzymes in forming dental plaque.

Not all propolis is alike. Honeybees make propolis by collecting the secretions of trees and other plants where they live; thus the make-up of propolis varies depending on the surrounding plant life. Researchers have found the propolis of Brazilian honeybees to be particularly potent when it comes to protecting teeth.

Brazilian honeybee propolis contains two key compounds, one of which is the best plaque inhibitor scientists have ever seen. It is especially effective in blocking the plaque action of the most common pathogen in our mouths, Streptococcus mutans. It also blocks a particular enzyme that no other compound is known to inhibit. Even though it has not yet been proven to be effective in humans, propolis seems to be pretty amazing stuff.

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