The Importance of Nitrate Reduction for Oral Health

B T Rosier*, N Takahashi, E Zaura, B P Krom, R M MartÍnez-Espinosa, S G J van Breda, P D Marsh, A Mira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Salivary glands concentrate plasma nitrate into saliva, leading to high nitrate concentrations that can reach the millimolar range after a nitrate-rich vegetable meal. Whereas human cells cannot reduce nitrate to nitrite effectively, certain oral bacteria can. This leads to an increase in systemic nitrite that can improve conditions such as hypertension and diabetes through nitric oxide availability. Apart from systemic benefits, it has been proposed that microbial nitrate reduction can also promote oral health. In this review, we discuss evidence associating dietary nitrate with oral health. Oral bacteria can reduce nitrite to nitric oxide, a free radical with antimicrobial properties capable of inhibiting sensitive species such as anaerobes involved in periodontal diseases. Nitrate has also been shown to increase resilience against salivary acidification in vivo and in vitro, thus preventing caries development. One potential mechanism is proton consumption during denitrification and/or bacterial reduction of nitrite to ammonium. Additionally, lactic acid (organic acid involved in oral acidification) and hydrogen sulfide (volatile compound involved in halitosis) can act as electron donors for these processes. The nitrate-reducing bacteria Rothia and Neisseria are consistently found at higher levels in individuals free of oral disease (vs. individuals with caries, periodontitis, and/or halitosis) and increase when nitrate is consumed in clinical studies. Preliminary in vitro and clinical evidence show that bacteria normally associated with disease, such as Veillonella (caries) and Prevotella (periodontal diseases and halitosis), decrease in the presence of nitrate. We propose nitrate as an ecologic factor stimulating eubiosis (i.e., an increase in health-associated species and functions). Finally, we discuss the preventive and therapeutic potential, as well as safety issues, related to the use of nitrate. In vivo evidence is limited; therefore, robust clinical studies are required to confirm the potential benefits of nitrate reduction on oral health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00220345221080982
Pages (from-to)887-897
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dental Research
Issue number8
Early online date23 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • caries
  • halitosis
  • microbial ecology
  • microbiome
  • periodontal diseases
  • periodontitis
  • probiotics

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