By Susan Braden
Tooth decay, or oral caries, is the most common chronic disease in humans, estimated to affect 95% of adults at some point in their life. (As a comparison, asthma, which also is considered very common, only affects 7% of Americans.) In children from age 5 to 17, this disease is also more widespread than bronchitis and hay fever. The disease also has financial implications, as in recent years Americans have spent nearly $40 billion each year to treat decaying teeth and their repercussions. Scientists are constantly looking for more affordable dental solutions to reduce patients’ need for expensive fillings. According to Science Daily, researchers have discovered a surprising natural cavity fighter – the cranberry.
It has been discovered in the past that cranberry juice contains ingredients that help to cure and prevent bladder infections. More recently, doctors began testing the theory that the characteristics of the cranberry that fight bladder infection may help fight the causes of tooth decay.
The warning sign of dental caries is the buildup of plaque. This buildup occurs when bacteria and a polysaccharide matrix come into contact and bond directly onto your teeth. This plaque can be taken care of very easily by daily brushing before it has time to harden into tartar, which makes it almost impossible to be removed.
Hyun Koo, an oral biologist who has been researching the cavity-fighting properties of the cranberry, stated "Scientists believe that one of the main ways that cranberries prevent urinary tract infections is by inhibiting the adherence of pathogens on the surface of the bladder. Perhaps the same is true in the mouth, where bacteria use adhesion molecules to hold onto teeth."
Koo took part in a team that researched to discover if their initial hypotheses regarding the positive impacts of cranberries on teeth could be supported. The team discovered that properties of the cranberry actually do help break down plaque and prevent its buildup.
The team states they do not advise patients to increase their cranberry juice intake just yet, because current varieties contain high amounts of sugar that can reverse the progress that cranberries’ cavity-fighting properties will make against plaque.
What Dr. Koo’s team are trying to do now is to isolate the properties of the cranberry that fight plaque, get them into everyday oral care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash. If these improvements occur, then more affordable dental care can start at home with the use of these products, perhaps leading to less expensive dentist visits and inconvenient fillings. Koo and his team are not the only ones who have noticed the cavity-fighting characteristics of this fruit; nine other projects have been researching it as well. When implemented, their discoveries could give people access to cavity-fighting, affordable dental hygiene products from home.