HONEY Ain’t Just Sugar
– 9 Oral Benefits –

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist

August 22, 2021


I thought my dental colleagues were going to laugh me out of my profession when I suggested that raw honey could be used to brush teeth. Several peer-reviewed medical articles have explained how raw honey could be used in the mouth to decrease the pathogens causing tooth decay and gum disease.

Well, the research is clear. Honey ain’t just sugar. And another beauty about honey is that it is an animal-based food, which I include in my modified carnivore diet that I call the Better Belly Blueprint.

In an April 2020 article published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, the authors concluded: “Honey showed a significant antimicrobial activity against all targeted periopathogens. Additional experiments are required to explore the entire antimicrobial spectrum of honey towards all pathogens involved in periodontal disease.”

The authors of this publication researched various databases since January 2019 for well-designed clinical trials and in vitro studies exploring the antimicrobial effects of honey against the bacteria causing periodontal disease. From all the databases, the investigators found 5 randomized controlled clinical trials and 11 well-designed in vitro studies. Manuka honey and multifloral honeys were the most frequently researched varieties.

 

Honey is Complex

Manuka Honey may be the best. As with all raw honey, manuka honey is roughly 80% sugars and 17% water, with the last 3% being comprised of minerals, organic acids, enzymes, etc. Its sugar content is made up of about 31% glucose, 38% fructose, and a mixture of more complex sugars that are harder for the body to breakdown.  Honey contains 4% to 5% fructo-oligosaccharides, which are excellent prebiotics to feed beneficial bacteria in the gut.

All honeys contain about 200 biologically active chemicals. These raw and unfiltered honeys are a good source of amino acids, B vitamins, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. But manuka honey has up to four times the nutritional content of all other flower honeys. Most of the pharmacological effects of honey come from polyphenols, which are found in large concentrations in honey.

But manuka honey has concentrations of a unique compound. Manuka has non-peroxide bacteriostatic properties that are the result of methylglyoxal (MGO).[1] This biologically active compound is not present to any great extent in other honeys, and it enhances wound healing and tissue regeneration by its immunomodulatory properties.

In 2017, Niaz et al published a review of the tissue regenerating effects of manuka honey.[2] The authors stated that their research showed, “Manuka honey can inhibit the process of carcinogenesis by controlling different molecular processes and progression of cancer cells.”

 

Honey Kills Microbes[3]

Numerous studies have shown that the antibacterial properties of honey primarily are due to its hydrogen peroxide and methylglyoxal content.[4]

Other bioactive components in honey that assist in its antimicrobial properties are phenols and flavonoids.[5]

In addition, manuka honey has a low water content and a moderate acid level of pH 4.3. These attributes contribute to its significant antibacterial potency.

The “sugar” part of honey also contributes to its medicinal benefit. The high sugar content causes hypertonic conditions around microbes which leads to the lysis and destruction of the microbial cell walls.

 

9 Oral Benefits

  1. Honey exerts antibacterial effects on nearly 60 species and prevents the development of resistant strains of bacteria.[6],[7],[8]
  2. Manuka honey is effective in preventing growth of biofilm organisms, reducing the production of acids, and reducing gingivitis.[9]
  3. Randomized controlled trials indicate honey helps prevent dental caries and gingivitis following orthodontic treatment.[10]
  4. A double-blind, randomized controlled trial demonstrates that manuka honey and other raw honeys are almost as effective as chlorhexidine as a mouthwash.[11]
  5. Manuka honey controls odor and inflammation in wounds secondary to squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity.[12]
  6. Honey has cytotoxic effects on cultured oral squamous cell carcinomas.[13]
  7. Multiple reports indicate honey is beneficial in the treatment of radiation induced mucositis in people undergoing curative radiotherapy for their head and neck cancer.[14]
  8. Honey is helpful in treating dry mouth in people undergoing radiation treatment for their head and neck cancer.[15]
  9. Honey enhances wound healing in non-healing or recurrent wounds in the head and neck area after radiotherapy.[16]

As you can see, honey and especially manuka honey wear many hats.[17] It can be a toothpaste, an antibiotic, an antiviral, an antifungal, a regenerative agent, an anti-cancer substance, an antioxidant, a prebiotic, an anti-inflammatory, and so much more.

 

Practical Applications

Toothpaste: Put about 1/2 teaspoon of manuka honey in your mouth and spread it around all your teeth using your tongue. Then use an electric toothbrush as you would normally brush.

Healing oral soft tissue lesions: Swish 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of honey around your mouth for a minute or so, and then swallow. Use as often as necessary.

Lips and corners of mouth: Apply manuka honey to dry lips and sore corners of mouth as needed.

Systemic benefits: Eat about 1/2 teaspoon of honey 2-3 times a day for systemic benefits like improving a cough and cold symptoms from upper respiratory infections, preventing gastric ulcers, and improving digestive symptoms.

A mouthwash: If you feel you need to “freshen” your mouth, swish with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of honey and then swallow.

Dry mouth: If you have dry mouth or xerostomia, swish with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of honey as needed and then swallow.

 

Purchasing Options

The New Zealand government’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) created the first global standard and scientific definition for manuka honey in early 2018.[18] This is the only government-regulated and approved standard for manuka honey in the world.

As of February 5, 2018, all honey labeled as manuka honey and exported from New Zealand is now required to be tested to show that it meets the MPI standard before it can lawfully be exported. The test results from the certifying lab must accompany the export documents for the manuka honey ensuring that product packed in New Zealand is genuine.

There are many manuka honeys for purchase. I usually purchase Manuka Honey from Manuka Health of New Zealand. You should research other brands and make your decision.

Manuka Honey is part of my medicine chest, my kitchen pantry, and my bathroom where I keep my toothbrush, floss, TePe Easy Picks, and toothpaste.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18210383

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28901255

[3] https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/wounds/article/honey-biologic-wound-dressing

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6613335/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30575387/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Honey%E2%80%93a+remedy+rediscovered+and+its+therapeutic+utility

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15055885/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6034044/

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3220139/

[10] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1013905214000327

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855267/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25734464

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2949736/

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Topical+application+of+honey+in+the+management+of+chemo%2Fradiotherapy-induced+oral+mucositis%3A+A+systematic+review+and+network+meta-analysis

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=The+effectiveness+of+thyme+honey+for+the+management+of+treatment-induced+xerostomia+in+head+and+neck+cancer+patients%3A+a+feasibility+randomized+control+trial

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=The+treatment+of+chronic+wounds+in+the+head+and+neck+area+after+radiotherapy+with+medical+honey

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28901255

[18] https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/17374-manuka-honey-science-definition-infographic

 

Check out my training on the Better Belly Blueprint! You can watch it HERE.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Interesting information Dr. Al. There are a lot of different levels or grades of Manuka honey, and price points.When I’ve seen them at the store there is a number on the label. Which one do you recommend and will they all be effective, even the cheaper ones?

    • The “number on the label” refers to the amount of methylglyoxal (MGO). I never buy the most expensive or the least expensive. I purchase the “in-between” grade.

  2. Thank you so much Dr. Al. So your last sentence says you keep toothpaste in your bathroom as well. So do you alternate between toothpaste and honey? or do you use both together, like honey first, toothpaste second?

    • Sometimes I use Manuka Honey; sometimes I use Revitin toothpaste; and sometimes I use Himalayan salt water. I never use more than one on any day.

  3. Great Dr. I have my research published on this. Thanks for making people aware.


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