London: Decay is caused by bacteria, called streptococcus mutans, that live in the mouth and feed on sugar in the diet. Once the bacteria stick to the enamel, they trigger a process called demineralization – they turn to sugar in the diet into a harmful acid that starts to create holes in the teeth.
For decades, the main treatment for cavities has been to ‘drill and fill’. However, an estimated one in five Britons suffers from dental phobia, a fear of dentists which means some would rather endure pain and suffering than face the prospect of having their teeth drilled.
Tooth Cavity and Decay Causes and Treatment
Dentists have urged manufacturers of mouthwash and toothpaste to start using blueberries in their products. The Oral Health Foundation today claimed the fruit, and cranberries, both seem ‘especially good for oral health’. It comes after scientists found the berries can reduce the risk of tooth decay by lowering the activity of bacteria in the mouth.
Fruits such as these are a rich source of polyphenols which are antioxidants, already known to protect against free radicals in the body. Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the OHF, is now calling for the dark berries to become an ingredient in dental products such as mouthwash.
He said the ‘polyphenols stick around in our saliva and will continue to help our mouth, even after we’ve swallowed them’. Dr. Carter added: ‘What is especially exciting is these natural extracts are completely sugar-free. This means they can be added to oral care products in several ways.’
And he added: ‘They can dissolve in water so can be used to create healthy drinks, as well as to reformulate unhealthy drinks packed full of sugar.’ Researchers at the University of Queensland tested extracts of cranberry, blueberry, and strawberry on mouth bacteria.
They found significant reductions with cranberries and blueberries, according to the results in the journal Oral Sciences. Mr. Nebu Philip, the lead author from the School of Dentistry in The University of Queensland, suggested the fruits could be used as a ‘natural weapon’ in the fight against cavities.
A report issued by the OHF today suggested eating a handful of such berries a day could reduce oral health issues. This is easier with blueberries which can be eaten raw with breakfast cereal or in yogurt, for instance, as many find the taste of cranberries too tart, they said.
Because berries contain natural sugar, it would be best to consume them at mealtimes rather than as snacks, Dr. Carter said. He added: ‘It is important to remember that whole fruit contains natural sugars.
‘This means it can still cause a risk to teeth when consumed in high amounts and too often. ‘It is best to eat fruit at mealtimes like breakfast, or straight after dinner. This will limit the number of times which our mouth is exposed to sugar and acid.’
Polyphenols, found in both blueberries and cranberries, are known to be good for protecting against heart disease and cancer. They also contain antioxidants, which help hydrate and are a good source of fiber, as well as other nutrients.
Blueberries had the fastest-growing sales of any food product in supermarkets in the UK in 2018, with Brits spending an extra £100million on popular berries, according to retail figures from The Grocer.