Dental researchers have found that cranberry juice holds important clues for preventing cavities. University of Rochester oral biologist Hyun (Michel) Koo has discovered that the same traits that make cranberry juice a powerful weapon against bladder infections, also hold promise for protecting teeth against cavities. Cranberry juice acts like Teflon® for teeth, says Koo, making it difficult for Streptococcus mutans - the bacteria that causes cavities - to cling to tooth surfaces.
Koo's work, published in Caries Research, with cranberry juice is one of nine projects funded through a special program by the National Institutes of Health to test cranberry's reputed health-enhancing effects. "There is a massive number of publications about the effect of cranberries on urinary tract infections," said Koo, "but there are only few studies on the dental side."
Koo and fellow researchers found evidence that cranberry juice disrupts the formation of the building block of plaque, known as a glucan. Glucan quickly forms a layer that covers the tooth and gives bacteria a safe haven to munch on sugar, thrive, and churn out acid. The researchers found that cranberry juice prevents bacteria from forming plaque by inhibiting the formation of glucan and by stopping additional bacteria from adhering to the tooth.
"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 explained.
But despite these properties, it's unlikely that drinking cranberry juice will stop your teeth decaying. The sugar that is usually added to cranberry juice would likely outweigh the benefits, says Koo. But Koo hopes to isolate the compounds within the juice that pack an anti-cavity punch, and these substances could then be added to toothpaste or mouth rinse directly.
Source: University of Rochester Medical Center