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Why Thanksgiving dinner is terrible for your teeth, and one Thanksgiving favorite that may provide the solution

Thursday, November 25, 2010 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: Thanksgiving, teeth, health news

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(NaturalNews) The delicious food, fun festivities, and warm fellowship associated with the Thanksgiving holiday are a joyous occasion for Americans. But that joy often stops in the mouth, where residue from the cornucopia of Thanksgiving food fuels the insatiable hunger of a harmful oral bacteria. In fact, several of the most commonly eaten Thanksgiving foods are also this bacteria's favorite foods, which can wreak havoc on tooth enamel.

Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans, is an oral bacteria that thrives on sugar from foods like sweetened cranberry sauce, red wine, sweet potato casseroles, pumpkin pie, and other Thanksgiving delectables. These microbes actually eat the sugar and leave behind powerful acids that eat away at tooth enamel. And compared to most other holiday feasts, Thanksgiving has one of the largest varieties of foods favored by this bacteria.

Dr. Hyun "Michael" Koo, D.D.S., Ph.D., and his colleagues from the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered that S. mutans is able to thrive so well on teeth because of glucans, the precursors to plaque that build up on teeth. This fortress of molecules provides a foundation for S. mutans to thrive and produce damaging acid, as well as plaque.

Interestingly, the team found that cranberries contain natural enzymes that help prevent glucans from forming. Without glucans, S. mutans and other bacteria are unable to grab hold and do their damage. Unfortunately, most of the cranberry sauces eaten at Thanksgiving are loaded with sugars that harm teeth and counteract the benefits, but the isolated compounds in cranberries are a natural solution to the damaging effects of such foods on teeth.

"Maintaining the natural balance of resident flora in the oral cavity is important for keeping opportunistic pathogens in check," Koo explained. "These molecules don't outright kill S. mutans. Instead, they disrupt the two most harmful actions of this pathogenic organism, acid production and glucan production."

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