By: Sydonya Barker for Dental1
Could it be time to replace your toothbrush with raisins? Well, not exactly, but new research shows that while raisins can’t provide the overall cleanliness of a thorough tooth brushing, they may promote oral health because they affect the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
|Learn more about raisins:|
According to the California Raisin Marketing Board, raisins are:
Versatile – great in sauces, stews, desserts, salads, baked goods and more.
Fast – from box to hand to mouth.
Functional – contain phytochemicals for better health.
Easy to use
For more nutritional information and recipes including raisins,
California Raisin Marketing Board
Long known for their iron-rich content, the sweetness of raisins makes them an unlikely candidate in the fight against oral disease. However, in a recent meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta, Christine D. Wu, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, said that lab tests showed that raisins “suppress the growth of several species of oral bacteria associated with [tooth decay] and gum disease.”
Wu and her team found that Thompson seedless raisins contain five types of tooth-protecting phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, which are non-nutritive compounds in plants, prevent disease and offer other protective benefits. While there are at least 900 types of phytochemicals in plants, the five varieties found in raisins are particularly effective at suppressing the growth of oral bacteria.
How does this happen? First, consider the goings-on in a freshly cleaned mouth. When teeth are free of food and bacteria buildup, saliva can easily wash over and between teeth to provide beneficial nutrients for good oral hygiene. Conditions change however, when tooth surfaces are not so clean.
Streptococcus mutans, also known as S. mutans, is the predominant form of bacteria found in the mouth and the primary culprit that causes tooth decay. Once sugary remains of food are left in the mouth, S. mutans eats the sugar, excretes acids, and then forms a sticky substance that latches onto teeth. S. mutans protects itself in this sticky, acidic substance by changing its chemical structure. The sticky film is plaque. Plaque, which is comprised of bacteria, sugars and other substances, coats teeth and begins to attract other bacteria and sugars. The longer plaque remains on teeth, the more likely it is that the teeth will undergo some damage, and the more unlikely it is that saliva is able to provide beneficial nutrients.
However, Wu’s research showed that the phytochemicals in raisins prevent S. mutans from latching onto teeth thereby avoiding the buildup of plaque.
While Wu acknowledges that raisins may not prevent cavities, she advises that “raisins are not all bad for you.” And even though the number of raisins needed to suppress S. mutans is unknown, maybe popping a few raisins in between brushings may not be a bad idea. Whether you prefer them in your favorite cereal, dessert, or alone, you may feel at ease knowing that research shows that these tiny treats are may prevent tooth decay.