A new study has found that extracts from blueberries could help fight gum disease. Researchers explained that the extract found in wild blueberries helps prevent formation of plaque on teeth, which leads to gum disease and periodontitis.
Antibiotics are needed to treat periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease. The new discovery might replace these antibiotics with wild blueberry extract and it may also be used to prevent formation of plaques.
Gum disease or periodontitis (also known as pyorrhea) is a serious form of gum infection. When bacteria form plaques on teeth, the gums become inflamed and bleed during tooth brushing. This is called gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis leads to periodontitis, which damages tissue and destroys the bone that supports the teeth. When a person develops gingivitis, pockets are formed between teeth when the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth. The small pockets between teeth and gums collect waste and may become infected. This part of the disease is known as periodontitis. The teeth may become loose and eventually fall out.
If not treated properly, periodontitis may cause tooth loss or other serious health problems, such as heart attack or stroke. However, not all gingivitis progresses to periodontitis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every two American adults aged 30 and over has periodontal disease. Another study titled “Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010” estimated that 47.2 percent, or 64.7 million American adults, have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis. For people aged 65 or over, the prevalence rate increased to 70.1%.
According to a press release, researchers started considering whether blueberry polyphenols could fight bacteria associated with periodontitis. These polyphenols have been showed to be very effective against foodborne pathogens.
When bacteria form plaque on teeth, it eventually hardens into tartar. The infection at this point may spread below the gum line and destroy the tissue that supports the teeth. Dentists usually have to scrape off the tartar and resort to antibiotics in order to treat this condition.
Daniel Grenier and colleagues tested extracts from the wild low brush blueberry. The polyphenol-rich extracts successfully inhibited the growth of one of the main species of bacteria called fusobacterium nucleatum that causes the formation of plaques. The extracts also blocked the molecular pathway involved in inflammation, a key part of gum disease.
The researchers are now trying to develop a device that can slowly release the extracts to further protect patients’ gums after a deep cleaning to cleanse periodontitis.
This common but largely preventable disease is the result of poor oral hygiene. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and getting regular dental checkups can greatly reduce the chance of developing gum disease.