A new treatment for gum disease utilizing blueberry extract is currently in development by a team from Université Laval in Canada. Their findings are available in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The wild blueberry extract-based treatment is believed to prevent dental plaque formation. Failure to remove plaque via diligent brushing and flossing results in harder deposits called tartar, which only a dental professional can remove.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of American adults 30 and over are suffering from some degree of periodontal disease.
The Université Laval research team has been studying a number of natural antibacterial compounds in hopes of successfully combating gum disease. Their most recent efforts focused on blueberry polyphenols, particularly those found in the wild lowbush blueberry.
Lab tests indicated the blueberry compounds effectively interfered with bacterial growth and the formation of biofilms. Biofilms are the “precursors” to plaque, and are defined as a matrix of substances produced by bacteria cells. The blueberry extract was also found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
“This dual antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action of lowbush blueberry polyphenols suggests that they may be promising candidates for novel therapeutic agents,” the researchers noted. They are now working on oral device that slowly releases blueberry extract following a deep teeth cleaning.
Maintaining gum health is essential not just in regards to overall oral health, but to prevent certain diseases. Sub-par gum health has been linked to numerous illnesses besides gum disease, including Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. A study by the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University found a link between gum and heart health.
“Our results show a clear relationship between what is happening in the mouth and thickening of the carotid artery, even before the onset of full-fledged periodontal disease. This suggests that incipient periodontal disease should not be ignored,” the Columbia researchers said at the time of the study.
Symptoms of gingivitis and gum disease include inflamed and/or red gums, bad breath, tartar formation, and bleeding gums. If infection spreads below the gumline, it can easily destroy the tissue that ensures teeth remain supported. Preventing gum disease has traditionally revolved around tartar removal by dentists and sometimes the use of antibiotics. Blueberry extract is therefore opening a large proverbial door in terms of treating this common, yet serious, disease.