The name "BLIS K12" may evoke thoughts of ecstasy or primary and secondary school, but the nomenclature of this halitosis-fighting substance has scientific origin, and it works in ways you may not expect.
BLIS K12 probiotic products do not treat bad breath in the traditional way - namely, by masking the smell with mint or cinnamon - but instead gradually replace odor-causing bacteria with a specific species called Streptococcus salivarius.
While its name may sound a bit intimidating - after all, strep throat is caused by a microbe in the Streptococcus genus - this variety of bacteria is harmless for humans. A 2003 report in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology determined that, of all the microorganisms living on your tongue, S. salivarius is in fact most closely associated with good oral health.
The beauty of this tiny species is that it is harmful to a special group of organisms: the very bacteria causing your bad breath. They do so by producing a special variety of proteins called bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances (BLISs).
Though their actions are complex, BLIS proteins perform one basic task, which is to inhibit the growth of other microbes in your mouth. As you might expect, this little trick can be - and, in some specialty breath freshening products, is - exploited for its bad breath-fighting consequences.
All halitosis is caused by bacteria on your tongue, teeth, gums and palate. While alcohol-based mouthwashes can kill quite a few of these microorganisms, no such product is 100 percent effective. Those bacteria that aren't killed when you gargle with alcohol quickly repopulate your mouth and begin producing foul-smelling compounds.
If alcohol won't do the trick, what will? The BLIS created by the S. salivarius strain K12 has been found in a number of lab tests to inhibit the growth of odor-producing bacteria - hence the name BLIS K12 oral care probiotics.
A study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that this substance, BLIS taken from S. salivarius K2, is quite safe. "It has very low pathogenic potential and is unlikely to cause disease in healthy humans," said the authors, who were associated with BLIS Technologies and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at New Zealand's University of Otago.
Likewise, oral care probiotics that take advantage of BLIS K12 may linger in the mouth for up to eight days, according to a report in the journal Molecular Oral Microbiology.
However, the manufacturer of BLIS K12 products recommends that these probiotics be used more often than that, so that S. salivarius can do its job, crowding out halitosis-causing bacteria and reducing bad breath.