Does eating/chewing honey help prevent gingivitis, periodontal disease and dental caries?

The studies have found so far tend to say yes but it needs to be confirmed by other studies.

From {2}:

Abstract: Research has shown that manuka honey has superior antimicrobial properties that can be used with success in the treatment of wound healing, peptic ulcers and bacterial gastro-enteritis. Studies have already shown that manuka honey with a high antibacterial activity is likely to be non-cariogenic. The current pilot study investigated whether or not manuka honey with an antibacterial activity rated UMF 15 could be used to reduce dental plaque and clinical levels of gingivitis. A chewable "honey leather" was produced for this trial. Thirty volunteers were randomly allocated to chew or suck either the manuka honey product, or sugarless chewing gum, for 10 minutes, three times a day, after each meal. Plaque and gingival bleeding scores were recorded before and after the 21-day trial period. Analysis of the results indicated that there were statistically highly significant reductions in the mean plaque scores (0.99 reduced to 0.65; p=0.001), and the percentage of bleeding sites (48% reduced to 17%; p=0.001), in the manuka honey group, with no significant changes in the control group.

CONCLUSION: These results suggest that there may be a potential therapeutic role for manuka honey confectionery in the treatment of gingivitis and periodontal disease.

From {1}:

Within the limitations of the study it can be concluded that topical application of honey can modify the pH, reduce bacterial counts, and inhibit bacterial growth. These data suggested that topical application/chewing of honey might help prevent gingivitis and caries in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment. Further studies will be required to substantiate these preliminary observations.

(it's unclear which honey they used. They indicate they got it from Imtenan Co. Ltd., Elnozha Elgededa, Cairo, Egypt, but http://www.imtenan.com/product-categories/honey/ (mirror) lists several honeys)



1 Answer 1


Analysing the papers already cited in the question and further looking for evidence there seems to be some promising research going on.

Honey has bactericidal properties, Manuka honey even more so. Sounds quite logical then to use this honey in helping with oral troubles as a result of bacterial activity?

Honey contains so much sugar(s) that it's tempting to write that honey is sugar. Sugar also has bactericidal properties but is very strongly connected with the development of dental problems, caries being the first on that list.

While other oral problems might have their causative agents in a variety of bacteria. Tooth decay in the form of caries is most prominently the result of Strepptococcus mutans metabolising saccharides into acid.

This application of honey to the teeth to prevent biofilms, plaque and inflammation or gingivitis seems almost promising.

Effect of Manuka honey, chlorhexidine gluconate and xylitol on the clinical levels of dental plaque:

Manuka honey and chlorhexidine mouthwash reduced plaque formation significantly better than xylitol chewing gum.

The overall cost benefit relationship looks not so good for caries: Streptococcus mutans is not very affected by Manuka honey:

► Both honeys were bacteriostatic against all microorganisms tested. MH (Manuka honey) was more effective than clover honey (CH).
► Both honeys were bactericidal against all microorganisms tested except S. mutans.
► Most microorganisms were more sensitive to MH than CH except S. gordonii and F. nucleatum ATCC 44256.

► MH was more effective than clover honey against three of the tested plaque-associated species.
► Subgingival application of manuka honey as an adjunct to periodontal treatment merits further investigation. However, since S. mutans was relatively resistant and pH of honey is below 5.5 this may predispose root surfaces to caries and erosion.

Not all Manuka honeys are created equal: Evaluation of the effects of manuka honey on salivary levels of mutans streptococci in children: A pilot study(DOI: 10.4103/0970-4388.135827):

However, what has not been taken into account is that honey varies markedly in the potency of its antibacterial activity. Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey from New Zealand has been found to have substantial levels of non-peroxide antibacterial activity associated with an unidentified phytochemical component, denoted as Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). […] Results: Children using manuka honey showed statistically significant reductions in salivary S. mutans after 10 and 21 days. Conclusion: Manuka honey with UMF 19.5 may be considered as an effective adjunctive oral hygiene measure for reducing colony counts in children.

What is this UMF? Some claim to have identified the (main) substance.

Identification and quantification of methylglyoxal as the dominant antibacterial constituent of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honeys from New Zealand: "This clearly demonstrates that the pronounced antibacterial activity of New Zealand Manuka honey directly originates from MGO."

This chemical is found in Manuka honey in measurable amounts and seems to be quite effective. How methylglyoxal kills bacteria: An ultrastructural study.

However these concentrations vary, are hardly to judge for the consumer; and concentration seems to matters:

Antibacterial Properties of Nonwoven Wound Dressings Coated with Manuka Honey or Methylglyoxal. studied the antibacterial activity of both MH and MGO (at equivalent MGO concentrations) when applied as a physical coating to a nonwoven fabric wound dressing. […] Other than the case of MGO-containing fabrics, solutions with much higher MGO concentrations (128 mg L-1-1024 mg L-1) were required to provide either a bacteriostatic or bactericidal effect.

Some Manuka honey may lead the way to find something that helps against a range of problems. Applying it directly to teeth seems currently not advisable. As the lack of definitive research indicates, this answer can not provide a clear statement at this point.

  • Although honey can be potentially used to treat wounds on live tissues, placing it next to teeth which do not have regenerating cells on their outer layer is probably not a good idea. Keep in mind that the oral cavity is constantly washed by salive when awake,which would dissolve any sugar including honey to sub therapeutic levels, feeding instead of killing the bacterias.
    – enap_mwf
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 1:56
  • @enap_mwf Well, skeptical as I am on this too, these honeys are not just sugar as therapeutic agent, osmotic pressure etc. Curiously it's just the diluting of ordinary honey that produces H2O2 and with Manuka there are additional active substances. Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 2:07
  • this will get ride of gram negative anaerobic bacterias in the gums and elsewhere in the body, due to production of h2o2, but will do little against gram positive bacterias on the teeth.
    – enap_mwf
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 2:18

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