fruit and tooth decay

It has long since been recommended to consume five portions of fruit and vegetables per day to ensure that you’re giving your body enough vitamins and minerals found within these foods. Although dentists have warned about the acidity of some fruits (citrus fruits in particular) causing harm to teeth enamel, new links have been found between some fruits and a reduction in harmful bacteria inside the mouth.

Scientists have found that blueberries and cranberries contain polyphenols, which is a naturally occurring component that fights harmful bacteria that can live in the mouth. Essentially, the polyphenols make the environment unsuitable for this bacteria to cling effectively to the teeth, meaning it is unable to stick around and cause too much harm.

HARVESTING POLYPHENOLS

Although fruits contain natural sugars, the good news for polyphenols is that these are actually sugar-free. So, if used in isolation, do not cause any of the unwanted side effects that sugar can cause the mouth.

The other exciting revelation is that these polyphenols can be extracted and added to water or oral care products, therefore it is not only possible to ingest them by consuming the fruit. Dr Nigel Carter who is the Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation explains that polyphenols “can be added to oral care products in several ways … They can dissolve in water so can be used to create healthy drinks… and mouthwash could benefit from this ingredient, as could toothpastes”.

Development of these polyphenols is still in its infancy at the moment so more research will need to be done into the practicalities of this, but it certainly looks very positive.

BE MINDFUL OF NATURAL SUGAR CONTENT

Experts here at CK Dental are keen to remind patients that although this is very good news that these fruits can help kill harmful bacteria, it is important not to forget that all fruits contain natural sugars, so do need to be consumed in moderation. Anyone who has eaten a cranberry before will know that these are not particularly sweet so therefore do not contain as much natural sugar as many fruits. Blueberries, by comparison, tend to be much sweeter and their sugar content is unsurprisingly much higher. According to the Oral Health Foundation, “one portion of cranberries contains up to four grams of natural sugar (equivalent to one teaspoon) while a serving of blueberries is nearly ten grams.”

If you like the sound of these benefits and wish to weave cranberries and blueberries into your diet, it is advised to eat them at meal times rather than as a snack, as this minimises the amount of time that your teeth are exposed to other components contained within them, such as the naturally occurring sugar content and acidity.

Evidence from research undertaken by two independent medical studies has indicated links between gum disease and two serious health complaints.

Gum disease is well known for its immediate issues; it causes swollen, bleeding gums, bad breath and long-term problems for your teeth. It is surprisingly common, with around 90% of people in the UK suffering with some form of gum disease on one or more occasion in their lives, and around 45% of the population experiencing gum disease at any one time. Worryingly, the recent findings suggest that bacteria associated with gum disease is linked both to Alzheimer’s disease and, for some women, the onset of early labour.

Links between gum disease and Alzheimer’s

Scientists have discovered that bacteria present in the mouth of gum disease suffers can actually travel through the body and enter the brain. The study, which examined the brain cells of 53 adult Alzheimer’s patients, found that a massive 96% of them had this type of bacteria present in the brain.

Encouragingly, there is evidence to suggest that there is a drug which can block the migration of the dangerous bacteria to the brain. Although preliminary testing has been done on mice, not humans, results have been extremely positive, and it is hoped that similar results for humans will follow.

Nevertheless, it is always better to prevent rather than cure and keep gum disease at bay.

Links between gum disease and premature labour

The other recent study which has discovered a link with gum disease was one which evaluated pregnant women whose waters broke early. Almost half of women who went into labour before the 37th week of pregnancy (which is when they are considered ‘full term’) were found to have gum disease.

Gum disease creates plaque, which generates bacteria. It was discovered that this type of bacteria could travel through the bloodstream and enter the placenta, causing inflammation. The implication of the inflammation was that it caused the amniotic sac that contains the unborn baby to break too soon, hence causing labour to begin before the body is naturally ready for the baby to be born.

How to avoid gum disease

The good news is that maintaining a good standard of oral hygiene is one of the most effective ways of avoiding gum disease. Brushing your teeth twice a day for around two minutes per brush and flossing regularly are recommended as part of this routine, as are avoiding food and drink that can cause a build-up of plaque and damage to tooth enamel.

Better standards of oral hygiene are easy to achieve and if this has the added benefit of reducing the risk of developing serious medical conditions, then it is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that you are doing your best to minimise risk.

If you want to know more about preventing gum disease or are concerned that you may have symptoms already, get in touch with the team here at CK Dental who will be happy to talk to you and assess whether or not you need treatment.


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Email: info@ckdental.co.uk

Telephone: 0117 9059 866

CK Dental | Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital – The Chesterfield, 3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1BN