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Carrington College Blog

Study suggests red wine could prevent dental cavities

May 6, 2015

Any students enrolled in dental hygienist schools should always be up to date on the latest news in oral care research. While many dental-related studies tend to pertain to the latest oral hygiene technology or breakthroughs in new products, there are certainly some samples of research that sound as puzzling as they are fascinating. One such study recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry is a prime example of how you never quite know which direction dental research will turn next.

Red wine prevents dental cavities?
Collaborators from the University of Zürich in Switzerland have analyzed how consumption of red wine may actually benefit oral health, specifically in helping prevent dental cavities.1 To put it into perspective, the researchers stressed how intricate the process of developing a cavity really is, as there are hundreds of microbial species that are active in the mouth simultaneously, which all play a role in the progression of plaque and biofilms. Cavities and other forms of periodontal disease are projected to affect anywhere between 60 to 90 percent of the global population. Because of the complexity of the formation of cavities, as well as the issue becoming a growing health epidemic, scientists are always on the lookout for the latest and more natural ways to slow down and decrease the role these microorganisms play in weakening oral health.

The idea of testing how red wine impacts our teeth began with acknowledging that polyphenols, an active ingredient in grapes and wine, can slow down the growth of streptococcus. Streptococcus is a group of bacteria that is routinely found in dental cavities, and examining how the polyphenols in wine can combat the bacterial forces of streptococcus became the foundation for the study.

Testing the polyphenols
At the beginning of the study, the researchers placed samples of various biofilm properties onto five different specimens: red wine, alcohol-free red wine, red wine with grape seed extract, water and 12 percent ethanol. The scientists analyzed how the variables interacted with each other for a few minutes, seeing which combination was more effectively fighting off the biofilm microorganisms. After the samples were measured and recorded, the researchers ultimately found that samples with red wine, either alcohol, alcohol-free or mixed with grape seed extract, were the most efficient at warding off the biofilm properties.

The researchers elaborated on how these results indicate a promising sign in finding new ways to offset the progression of bacteria groups that attribute to cavity development.

“Our results show that red wine, at moderate concentration, inhibits the growth of some pathogenic species in an oral biofilm model,” The researchers shared in a statement. “These findings contribute to existing knowledge about the beneficial effects of red wines (one of the most important products of agriculture and food industries) on human health. Moreover, the promising results concerning grape seed extract, which showed the highest antimicrobial activity, open promising ways toward a natural ingredient in the formulation of oral care products specifically indicated for the prevention of caries, due to its antimicrobial properties.”

Other alternative oral health care methods
While red wine is the latest unusual method for oral health care to emerge from research, there have been a number of other studies in the past that have labeled other alternative ingredients and nutrients for healthy dental care. A 2011 study published by the National Institute of Health suggested that cinnamon oil may promote antibacterial activity within the mouth, specifically halting in progression of streptococcus mutans and assisting in warding off plaque buildup.2 The researchers suggested that people should use cinnamon oil over clove oil as a recommended treatment for dental caries.

While the health benefits of drinking tea have long been studied, other reports indicate that green tea in particular may play a pivotal role in preventing tooth decay. The study published by the NIH again alluded to the beverage’s content of polyphenols, as well as high levels of fluoride, which in turn prompted the researchers to state that tea “can be considered a functional food for oral health by controlling, through prevention, the most prevalent infectious disease of mankind: Caries.”3

Another unusual source for cleaning teeth that has been extensively researched is using baking soda as a replacement for toothpaste. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry examined how specifically using Arm & Hammer baking soda affected subjects who were dealing with sufficient plaque buildup after going 24 hours without receiving any type of oral care.4 The results ultimately indicated that subjects who brushed their teeth with baking soda were able to enhance the effectiveness of removing plaque from their teeth, considerably more so than non-baking soda dentifrice products.

1 “Could red wine be used to prevent dental cavities?” David McNamee, Medical News Today, May 27, 2014.