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Dysphagia. 2014 Apr;29(2):277-82. doi: 10.1007/s00455-013-9508-3. Epub 2014 Jan 3.

The impact of dairy consumption on salivary inoculum.

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Section of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery, Yale University, 333 Cedar Street, P.O. Box 208041, New Haven, CT, 06520-8041, USA,


Quantitative levels of harmful oral microbes present following complex surgical excisions of head and neck cancer are important since wounds are often contaminated through direct connection to the oral cavity and its flora. This possibility is especially important in irradiated patients who have decreased protective salivary function. In addition, high oral microbial levels increase and intensify oral mucositis leading to significant morbidity in patients treated with radiation therapy. One previously untested surgical teaching to decrease the bacterial inoculum present in the oral cavity is to counsel patients against consuming otherwise nutritious dairy products, as they are thought to coat the oral cavity with rate-limiting nutrients vital for bacterial growth. This risk may extend to individuals with chronic laryngeal penetration or aspiration, since salivary bacterial load might represent a lethal threat in the presence of marginal pulmonary reserve. A crossover study using six healthy adult volunteers and six patients who had previously undergone radiation therapy to an oropharyngeal primary site was performed. Saliva samples were quantitatively cultured in both groups with and without the consumption of dairy products at 1-h and 5-h intervals. Analysis of quantitative cultures demonstrated that the consumption of dairy products had no influence on bacterial levels present in previously radiated subjects and nonirradiated controls. Additionally, the consumption of dairy did not affect the composition of microbes present. Due to the lack of changes in both quantity and composition of oral bacteria seen in this study, patients would not benefit from the avoidance of dairy products.

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