What is Propolis?
Propolis is a natural anti-bacterial substance made by bees from tree sap. Bees use the resin to seal tiny gaps in their hives. It’s been used as a healing agent for thousands of years stretching back to ancient Egypt and Greece whose physicians applied it to open wounds and sores.
There’s been an upturn in propolis research recently due to its natural anti-bacterial and anti- fungal properties. Propolis is also under investigation against types of cancer with good results so far.
What Is Chlorhexidine?
It’s a topical antiseptic that kills bacteria and fungal growth. Many anti-bacterial mouth rinses have chlorhexidine content. It’s often prescribed to treat gingivitis, but has some side effects such as soreness, white patches in the mouth and loss of taste sensation.
What causes tooth plaque?
Tooth plaque is caused by food and drink remaining on teeth. It builds up when teeth are not properly brushed and flossed. Dentists remove plaque build-up because it’s the main cause of cavities and tooth decay.
What is a bacterial biofilm?
A bacterial biofilm is a densely packed wall of micro-organisms that bind themselves together like a shield. Plaque is a bacterial microfilm that sticks on the teeth. Interestingly, the film that binds the organisms together may have a role in the rise of antibiotic resistant infections.
What was the study?
An oral rinse solution of choloxirine was tested against an extract of propolis for actions on bacterial and fungal infections found in the mouth. Both substances were distilled and tested on specifically cultured strains of micro-organisms.
Researchers found that both substances had a range on inhibitory effects on micro-organisms in both their planktonic state (their basic form) and as a biofilm.
The propolis extract inhibited growth of all the planktonic species of bacteria bar two strains. It was most effective against C. Albicans, a yeast infection and E. Faecalis, a bacterium.
Overall the two substances had comparatively slightly better and slightly worse outcomes on the various micro-organisms tested. One was not clearly better than the other.
A research drawback is the issue with propolis composition which varies with region. This is because bees use different plants depending on seasonal availability and their location. The propolis used in this research was obtained from the Kazan/Ankara/Turkey region, but not one batch of propolis is the same as another, and so another batch might yield different results.
However, researchers believe that at an appropriate concentration propolis might be effective in the fight against oral micro-organisms. Chlorhexidine is an excellent treatment against bacteria and fungus in the mouth, but propolis has promise as a natural alternative that could avoid chlorhexidine’s side effects.
Further studies are required of propolis, not least because of its regional variations, but this research is a positive step forward for natural remedies, particularly for those who are sensitive to chlorhexidine.
With the microbial world becoming increasingly resistant to our treatments, any alternatives that fight infection, bacteria and fungus are welcome.
More articles on teeth and gum disease:
More on bees and apitherapy:
Image: © Alexandr Zhuravel