Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) are gram-positive cocci shaped bacteria that are commonly found in the oral cavity, amongst other bacteria which combine to make up the microflora. They are a major contributor to dental decay as they break down sugar and produce an acidic environment, which demineralises the tooth structures.
Dark-coloured berries such as cranberries and blueberries contain polyphenols which have been proven by research to have a positive impact on health. More recently, a study has shown that these berries can inhibit acidic properties of S. mutans. This can result in a reduction in the formation of plaque and minimise the risk of dental caries.
During the study, varying concentrations of cranberry extract, blueberry extract and strawberry extract and a combination of the three (trademarked as Orophenol) were used to treat 24-hour-old lab grown S. mutans biofilms. Out of the four, cranberry and Orophenol extracts seemed to create the biggest difference in protecting against these harmful bacteria. Blueberry extract showed a reduction in acidity but only at the highest concentration, and strawberry extract had no significant impact. The study concluded that cranberry extract had the most effective anti-virulence properties, suggesting a potential role for these in reducing the harmful bacteria’s ability to cause dental diseases.
Berries are also a great dietary source of fibre and other nutrients as well as having antioxidant properties, which help to protect against a multitude of illnesses and diseases. However, in their natural form, they can contain high amounts of natural sugars; cranberries have up to four grams of sugar in a serving, strawberries up to eight grams and blueberries up to 10 grams! A positive note about these tested extracts, compared to the natural form, is that they can be made to be sugar-free. This means that they can be used in multiple ways, including mouthwashes and drinks, without the worry of still being harmful to the teeth due to the consumption of too much natural sugar.
So, could cranberries really make a big difference in the dental industry going forward? Well, with so many other health benefits, it’s hard not to believe that these berries could have some oral benefits too. A quick internet search also unveils a whole range of research articles and comments that agree with the view that the extract has inhibitory effects on the formation of harmful oral bacteria. It’s definitely a step towards a more holistic approach to dentistry, showing us that the world has its own natural ways to help us out!
Philip, N., Bandara, H., Leishman, S. and Walsh, L. (2018) ‘Inhibitory effects of fruit berry extracts on Streptococcus mutans biofilms’ European Journal of Oral Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1111/eos.12602