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Preventing tooth decay naturally

MagazineMarch 2006 (Vol. 16 Issue 12)Preventing tooth decay naturally

All this - and it doesn't prevent tooth decay

All this - and it doesn't prevent tooth decay. One study concluded: "It may . . . be that fluoridation of drinking water does not have a strong protective effect against early childhood caries" (J Public Health Dent, 2003; Winter: 38-46).

Happily, there are ways to avoid the dentist's drill without compromising your health. In WDDTY vol 16 no 9, we saw how bee propolis can aid oral health. Here are some other natural helpers against tooth decay.

Strontium
This trace element is thought to replace calcium in the body, including in bones and teeth. Studies have shown that dental caries (cavities) are related to the amount of strontium in the water. When tooth cavity rates in two neighbouring districts in Greece - one with high levels of strontium in the drinking water, the other with low amounts - were compared, the incidence of tooth decay was significantly lower in the high-strontium area (J Dent Res, 1983; 62: 989-91). Indeed, evidence suggests that the least caries were found in areas with strontium levels of 5.4 and 8.3 mg/L (the US Environ-mental Protection Agency considers 4 mg/L safe for human health) (Nutr Rev 1983; 41: 342-4). In rats (and so may not apply to humans), strontium increased tooth dentine (beneath the enamel) and reduced experimentally induced caries (Arch Oral Biol, 1982; 27: 667-71).

Strontium-rich foods include fish, wholegrains, kale, parsley, lettuce, Brazil nuts and molasses. A typical diet provides 2-3 mg/day of strontium.

Vitamin B6
The B-complex vitamins, particularly B6, support 'good' mouth bacteria while discouraging those that cause cavities (NY State Dent J, 1959; 25: 303-7). In pregnant women, those supplementing with 20 mg/day of B6 had significantly fewer cavities and fillings. Lozenges were more effective than capsules (Am J Clin Nutr, 1962; 10: 512-5).

Lactobacillus GG
This probiotic can fight off cavity-causing Streptococcus mutans. Nearly 600 children, aged one to six, drank either plain milk or milk containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG at meal times, five days a week. After seven months, the probiotic milk had cut cavities by nearly half (Caries Res, 2001; 35: 412-20).

Tea
Both green and black teas (Camellia sinensis) have flavonoids that inhibit the activity of decay-promoting bacteria (Arch Pharm Res, 1998; 21: 348-52). Green tea (full of tannins) appears to have greater antimicrobial potency than black tea (Int J Food Micrbiol, 1999; 48: 125-30). In one study, polyphenols (0.1 per cent) from Chinese green tea used as a rinse and dentifrice completely inhibited S. mutans (Zhonghua Kou Qiang Yi Xue Za Zhi, 1993; 28: 197-9, 254). Even rats that drank water spiked with tea compounds had fewer caries than those that drank plain water, though this may not apply to people (Caries Res, 1993; 27: 124-9).

Cranberry juice
A drink that was 25 per cent cranberry juice was found to stop bacteria from building up on an artificial tooth by 67-85 per cent. However, rather than advocating mass consumption of cranberry juice, the scientists hope to isolate the cavity-fighting compounds in the juice which can then be put directly into toothpastes and mouthwashes (Caries Res, 2006; 40: 20-7).

Joanna Evans


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