Given these properties, bee propolis has proved successful against a range of dental disorders - from plaque and cavities to gum disease and mouth ulcers, as well as having other health benefits (see box below). Added to toothpaste, it prevents periodontal disease, and is antiplaque/anti-inflammatory (Folia Med (Plovdiv), 2001; 43: 28-30).
It can even be used as a dental adhesive and anaesthetic. In one Russian report, the authors suggest adding a 4-per-cent alcohol solution of bee-propolis ‘glue’ to the root-canal filler during root-canal treatment. [Please note, however, that WDDTY does not endorse root canals; see The WDDTY Dental Handbook (£10.95 incl p&p) for more information about problems with the procedure.] As well as fighting against acute and chronic periodontal infection, the glue relieves pain and helps bone regeneration (Stomatologiia [Mosk], 1990; 69: 27-9).
In one Brazilian study, patients used a propolis mouthwash for 45 days after oral surgery. The researchers concluded that it not only aided the repair of the surgical wounds, but again had painkilling and anti-inflammatory effects (J Nihon Univ Sch Dent, 1994; 36: 102-11).
In another study (double-blind and crossover) of propolis mouthwash, six volunteers who used no other oral hygiene save the mouthwash - twice a day for three days - had significantly less dental plaque than those who used a placebo (Caries Res, 2002; 36: 445-8).
As for its cavity-combating power, propolis is known to resist Streptococcus mutans, the main bacteria behind tooth decay. S. mutans triggers dental caries by attaching itself to the teeth, and producing acids that break down tooth enamel. In one study - albeit in rats, and so not necessarily applicable to humans - propolis exhibited antimicrobial activity against three streptococcal species (S. sobrinus, S. mutans and S. cricetus), and markedly decreased the amount of tooth cavities (Caries Res, 1991; 25: 347-51).
These findings have been supported by human trials as well as in the lab. For example, the antibacterial action of propolis and honey on S. mutans was confirmed in saliva samples taken from 10 volunteers as well as on isolated agar dish cultures of S. mutans grown in the lab (Am J Dent, 1996; 9: 236-9).
A laboratory study using saliva samples from 25 healthy individuals and 25 patients with chronic peridontitis showed significant inhibition of microbial growth by propolis in both groups (J Int Acad Peridontol, 2005; 7: 90-6).
Finally, a lab study using a 10-per-cent propolis solution against 15 different oral disease-causing microorganisms - including Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus and S. mutans - once again showed significant growth inhibition of these pathogens, as well as prevention of the formation of harmful sugars. It also stopped the bacteria from adhering to the teeth (Arch Oral Biol, 2000; 45: 141-8).