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Cranberry juice to help prevent tooth decay?

Scientists have known that the anti-bacterial properties of cranberry juice can make it a powerful weapon against bladder infections. But new research from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows compounds in this popular drink may also help prevent tooth decay.

Researchers believe one of the main ways cranberry juice helps prevent urinary tract infections is by inhibiting the adherence of bacteria to the surface of the bladder. The Rochester team theorizes that the same may be true in the mouth, where bacteria use adhesion molecules to stick to teeth.

Since the bacterium often associated with tooth decay – Streptococcus mutans – must be able to adhere to teeth in order to cause decay, the Rochester team is hopeful that preventing such adhesion using compounds like those found in cranberry juice would help prevent such decay.

They also found evidence that cranberry juice disrupts the formation of dental plaque by inhibiting enzymes – called glucosyltransferases – that bacteria use to build up plaque molecules piece by piece on the teeth.

However, the team does not recommend increasing your diet of cranberry juice since the sugar added to the juice and its natural acidity may contribute directly to tooth decay. Instead, their future research will seek to isolate the useful compounds within the juice that help prevent cavities with the goal of adding them directly to toothpaste or a mouth rinse.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

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