The juice contains a chemical that blocks cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to teeth, scientists report in Caries Research.
"Something in the cranberry juice disarms the pathogens that cause tooth decay," researcher Hyun (Michel) Koo, DDS, PhD, says in a news release.
Koo is an oral biologist at New York's University of Rochester Medical Center.
How Cranberries Work
The tart cranberry is a staple of the Thanksgiving table. It's also well known for its work against urinary tract infections.
"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," says Koo. This means preventing bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract and tracking back to cause an infection.
"Perhaps the same is true in the mouth, where bacteria use adhesion molecules to hold on to teeth," he continues.
Basically, Koo's team found that cranberry juice thwarted that adhesion process. The cavity-causing bacteria can't do their dirty work without latching onto teeth.
Before you serve extra helpings of cranberry sauce, remember that the studies only included cranberry juice.
What's more, the juice had no sweeteners in it, unlike mainstream cranberry drinks. Koo's team focused on science, not gourmet flavors.
The scientists plan to isolate cranberry's key anticavity chemical, which may one day be used in toothpastes or mouth rinses, states the news release.
Meanwhile, Koo suggests avoiding cavities with simple steps like brushing your teeth, limiting sugary foods, and getting proper dental care.
Sources: Koo, H. Caries Research, January-February 2006; vol 40. News release, University of Rochester Medical Center.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
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