Eat Your (dark-colored) Berries

A recent study from the Oral Health Foundation (in the UK) reports that if you eat a handful of dark-colored berries it may reduce your risk of tooth decay. The study demonstrated that certain nutrients in cranberries and blueberries can help to prevent tooth decay. These nutrients protect the teeth from a particular strand of bacteria that accelerates the cranberries and blueberriesdecay process.

These nutrients, called polyphenols, prevent tooth decay by preventing “bad bacteria” from sticking to your teeth and gums. This effect could help us prevent tooth decay, plaque buildup, and gum disease. Dr. Nigel Carter says in the report “Cranberries seem especially good for our oral health, as their polyphenols stick around in our saliva and will continue to help our mouth, even after we’ve swallowed them.”

It is important to remember that like other fruits, cranberries and blueberries may contain large amounts of natural sugars (which may contribute to obesity and diabetes). Thus, quantities eaten should be limited. Yet dark-colored berries are one of the best sources of antioxidants, providing water, fiber, and other nutrients.

Probably the most exciting part of the study is the tooth-protecting nutrients in these fruits can be extracted sugar-free. This means they can be used in several ways and in several types of foods and products. They will dissolve in water. This means that they can be added to oral health care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash. They can also be used to create healthy replacements for sugary drinks.

It will be interesting to see if and when manufacturers will add polyphenols to their formulas for toothpaste and mouthwash.

In the meantime, it might make sense for many of us to add dark-colored berries to our diets. The best times to do that would be for breakfast or dinner. This limits the exposure of our teeth to the sugar and acid in the fruits. Further, it is important that we limit the amount of these fruits that we consume so that we gain the benefits and do not do harm with excessive sugar.

Our suggestion is that you eat a handful of cranberries or blueberries daily, brush and floss twice daily, and see your dentist twice each year. Let’s keep your teeth and gums healthy by eating a handful of dark-colored berries each day.