Could ice cream prevent cavities?

We know that the oral microbiome hosts a wide variety of bacteria, some good, and some that cause cavities.  Those that cause cavities do so by producing acid as they break down the food in our mouths.  Researchers in India are trying to discover if probiotics could help alter the oral microbiome so there is a decrease in the bacteria that commonly cause cavities.  In their study they investigated a type of ice cream sold in India that has the probiotics Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus acidophilus mixed in with the ice cream.  The researchers were interested in the effects the probiotic ice cream on the levels of bacteria and fungi in saliva, namely Streptococcus mutans, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Candida albicans, because these three bacteria are the main causes of tooth decay.  The results were recently published in the Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences.

In the study, the researchers gave 20 participants one dish of ice cream each day for 10 days that either contained the probiotics or did not.  The researchers examined the bacteria in the participants’ saliva both before and after the ice cream intervention.  The results showed that consumption of probiotic ice cream caused a significant reduction of both S. mutans and C. albicans, and an increase in the number of L. acidophilus when compared to controls.  The increase in L. acidophilus is not surprising because the ice cream contained L. acidophilus. The researchers highlighted that in other studies of people eating Lactobacillus acidophilus, it did not persist in the individuals’ mouths.  Overall, two of the cavity causing bacteria decreased in abundance and one, which was in the probiotic ice cream, increased in abundance.

We must admit that the rigor of this study was highly lacking, so we don’t want anyone to take these results too seriously. While more research needs to be done to determine if probiotic ice cream can actually help prevent cavities and tooth decay, any study that recommends eating it is fine by me.  It’s obviously important to brush your teeth every day, but it’s definitely more fun to eat ice cream than to floss!

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