A new study by China-based researchers has indicated that probiotic bacteria in fermented foods like yoghurt and sourdough bread can help clear the plaque responsible for bad breath from the teeth and tongue.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that live in the body, break down and absorb the nutrients from food and protect from harmful bacteria.
The researchers from Sichuan University in China, using meta-analysis of existing data, sought to establish if probiotics could expel proteins responsible for the foul odour like they do to bad bacteria.
According to a report, volatile sulphuric compounds are the major cause of persistent bad breath and occur when bacteria living on the tongue’s surface break down proteins too quickly and create a surplus of the smelly chemical.
The study involved 278 people in seven sub-study groups with some participants given probiotics while some were given a placebo as a treatment for bad breath.
The probiotics looked at for the study were: Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus reuteri, Streptococcus salivarius, and Weissella cibaria which were all in supplement forms.
“The number of participants in each study was small, ranging from 23 to 68, with an age range between 19 and 70. Monitoring periods spanned two to 12 weeks.
“Bad breath severity was determined by levels of the proteins responsible for it – volatile sulphuric compounds – detected in the mouth and on the tongue.
“The researchers also considered the plaque levels found on the tongue and teeth in certain studies, as this build-up is also responsible for bad breath,“.
From the study analysis published by BMJ Open – a peer-reviewed open-access medical journal, it was found that bad breath scores fell significantly in those given probiotics compared with those who were given a placebo.
“A similar result was observed for the levels of volatile sulphuric compounds detected, although these varied ‘substantially’ in the individual studies,” the analysis says.
It, however, noted that the effects were short-lived – up to four weeks – after which there was no noticeable difference, adding that “This means that a person must keep up with the supplements to maintain an odorless breath.”
Speaking, the author of the study, Dr. Longjiang Li, of Sichuan University in China, said, “Probiotics may inhibit the decomposition of amino acids and proteins by anaerobic bacteria in the mouth, thus curbing the production of smelly by-products.”
The researchers however acknowledged that the sample sizes of the study were small, adding that some of the data were incomplete to make conclusions.
To this, Dr. Li added that “more high-quality randomised clinical trials are required in the future to verify the results and to provide evidence for the efficacy of probiotics in the management of halitosis.”