Now scientists are confirming in laboratory studies that one of the substance-propolis, a resinous product collected from beehives--may inhibit the development of tooth decay. Researchers at the University of Campinas, Brazil, found that propolis considerably reduces dental plaque formation. Propolis is a potent inhibitor of glucosyltransferase (Gtf) enzymes, enzymes that synthesize glucans from sucrose and promote the binding of cariogenic bacteria to teeth, critical steps in the development of decay.
This natural substance is actually used by bees to strengthen and protect their hive from germs and foreign invaders. Worker honeybees collect propolis from the buds of various poplar and conifer trees and bark lesions. The bees pack the propolis on their hind legs and carry it back to their colony where it is combined with beeswax and salivary secretions. Propolis also has antibacterial and antifungal effects that protect the colony against disease. It has been shown to kill Bacillus larvae, a bacterial disease that attacks bees.
Results of the studies showed that overall, propolis inhibited 70-92 percent of Gtf activity in solution. There was a 45-95 percent inhibition in activity on the hydroxyapatite surfaces. The researchers tested propolis gathered from Minas Gerais in Southeastern Brazil and Rio Grande do Sul in Southern Brazil and discovered that the propolis samples differed in their effectiveness.Findings from this study appeared in Caries Research.