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Honey for oral health

February 25, 2001

Researcher to discuss the effect of honey on bacteria species responsible for dental caries

On Friday, March 9, 2001, Dr. Peter C. Molan, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Waikato, New Zealand will speak at a symposium entitled "Functional Foods for Oral Health" organized by the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. The symposium is part of the American Association for Dental Research annual meeting being held in Chicago. In his presentation "Honey for Oral Health," Dr. Molan will present the results of laboratory research to test the effect of honey on the species of dental plaque bacteria believed to be responsible for dental caries.

Honey contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide which is believed to be the main reason for the antimicrobial activity of honey. Types of honey differ greatly in their antimicrobial potency, varying as much as a hundred fold. The research has shown that honey not only stops the growth of the dental plaque bacteria, it reduces the amount of acid produced, which stops the bacteria from producing dextran. Dextran, a component of dental plaque, is the gummy polysaccharide that the bacteria produce in order to adhere to the surface of the teeth.

Dr. Molan's research is showing potential for the use of selected highly antimicrobial types of honey in the treatment of periodontal disease and gingivitis. These diseases are inflammatory conditions resulting from infection of the gums. The factors involved are very similar to those in inflamed infected wounds. Clinical research is showing that the selected honeys rapidly clear bacteria from infected wounds, even when the infection is deep-seated. However, unlike some other antiseptics, honey is gentler on tissue. The potent anti-inflammatory property of the honey rapidly removes the swelling and pain. Honey also has a marked stimulatory effect on the growth of cells that repair the tissues damaged by infection.

Dr. Molan heads The University of Waikato Honey Research Unit, recognized for its expertise in the composition of honey including antimicrobial activity. In New Zealand and Australia, honey producers have batches of honey tested in the laboratory to identify the samples with high activity. Those types are now labeled and marketed as "antiseptic". The National Honey Board is now coordinating efforts to have varieties of honey found in the United States tested to identify the floral types that have good antimicrobial activity.
Dr. Molan will be available for interviews on Thursday, March 8, 2001. For information contact Mary Ann Johnson at 415/268-5421 or

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