The Effects of Manuka Honey on Plaque and Gingivitis

I’d like to think I can claim a tiny part of the responsibility for research in this field if not this particular example.

I first read this article (sorry, most of it is behind a paywall) on the wound healing benefits of Manuka honey in October 2000. At the time I was experiencing major plaque problems, to the extent that I was having to visit the dentist every 3 months for a clean and scrape. I read the article and thought “surely if it’s that potent, it ought to be able to kill the bacteria causing my plaque”.

But I was nervous about what taking such a powerful antibiotic might do to my insides, particularly the beneficial flora I was so careful to encourage with my daily intake of live yogurt. So I wrote to the lead researcher – Dr Peter Molan – at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and asked his advice. He reassured me that, once swallowed, the honey quickly became too dilute to cause harm and even offered to send research samples to my own dentist if I could persuade them to conduct trials. He also said he was minded to consider such research himself.

I’ve been using UMF15+ Manuka ever since. At that time, nobody, including Peter Molan, knew how or why it was so effective. It took till 2008 for the discovery of Methylglyoxal as the principle bacteria killer.

The plaque problem was resolved instantly. If you want to try it yourself, all it takes is this:

After you’ve brushed your teeth last thing at night, quickly brush again with about half a teaspoon of manuka. The aim is to coat (mainly) the “outside” surfaces (nearest the cheek). Then take another level teaspoon of manuka and suck it off the spoon, and, using your tongue, try to squeeze it, equally, between all your teeth. Try to hold it in your mouth, without swallowing, for as long as possible; the idea being to expose any bacteria in your mouth, for as long as possible, to the manuka. In practice, you’ll find you can’t retain much of it for more than about 45 seconds, but that’s fine. I suspect 30 seconds is probably enough to kill any of the little critters hiding in your teeth.

When I proposed this self-treatment to my Dentist, they were somewhat less than enthusiastic. They advised the precaution of a baseline xray and examination so they could judge the long term effects. I now visit the dentist about once every 3 years and at my last visit (May this year) they confessed to how pleased and surprised they were at the long term effects of the manuka. My teeth, they told me, have, since 2000, suffered nothing more than the inevitable damage caused by wear and tear. In other words none of the problems caused by oral bacteria have manifested in my mouth since I started taking the stuff. And now, 12 years later, the research is finally emerging to justify my guess.

Strangely, my dentist never showed any interest in conducting their own research into a substance that might reduce their business by 90%. Can’t think why…