Thanksgiving is usually a time for cheer and good food and wine, but it could be a trying time for your teeth.
Dental researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center reveal in their new study how Streptococcus mutans and other harmful bacteria await their own holiday feast.
While bacterial forces in your mouth will exploit your delectables in newly discovered ways, some foods common at the holiday dinner table – like the cranberry and even wine – offer new leads in the effort to stop tooth decay.
Most cookies, pies and the like contain mountains of sugar, but it`s not the sugar itself that causes tooth decay but S. mutans and other bacteria in our mouths – billions of individual microbes all waiting for their next snack – that feast on the sugars, stick on your teeth and then churn out acid that eats away at tooth enamel.
However, there`s some good news.
"Natural substances offer tremendous possibilities for stopping tooth decay," said Hyun "Michel" Koo, a dentist turned food scientist and microbiologist.
According to Koo, cranberry gunk is a formidable fortress of molecules known as glucans – building blocks of plaque, stacked like bricks in a wall, rife with bacteria.
Compounds within the cranberry disrupt enzymes known as glucosyltransferases that bacteria use to build glucans. Without its glucans, S. mutans and other bad bacteria in plaque becomes vulnerable.
More good news comes from that delicious glass of wine - they found that the abundant waste from the red-wine-making process – materials such as fermented seeds and skins collectively known as pomace that are cast away after grapes are pressed – contains compounds that fight S. mutans.
"A cookie, sugar-covered doughnut, or a piece of pie filled with both sugar and starch provide the perfect recipe for the bacteria that destroy teeth," said Koo.
"On Thanksgiving Day, like any day, brush your teeth, avoid foods filled with sugars as best you can, and don`t snack often – and if you do, brush your teeth again. Consider using a mouth rinse, get some fluoride in there – and be sure to see a dentist regularly."