Although there have been many miraculous discoveries in medicine, we’re still discovering many of the amazing innovations of Mother Nature that can help us develop more natural approaches to medicine. One recent discovery that might be able to help us fight off gum disease is that blueberries have powerful antibacterial properties that may one day be harnessed to help battle gum disease.

happy woman preparing for dental exam

Gum Disease’s Deadly Consequences

Many people think oral hygiene is all about preventing cavities, but avoiding gum disease is at least as important if not more so. Gum disease is a chronic infection that allows bacteria to spread throughout our bodies. Once in our bloodstream, gum disease bacteria can contribute to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.

But there’s also one gum disease bacterium that has an even more frightening effect: it can help cancer take hold in your body. Fusobacterium nucleatum has been shown to suppress the mechanism by which the body recognizes and eliminates cancer cells. This gives small tumors the chance to get established before the body can fight them.

When this bacterium, which is common in gum disease, gets established and travels through the body, it could contribute to the development of tumors everywhere it goes.

Blueberries vs. Bacteria

And that’s where blueberries come in. Researchers tested extracts from a particular type of blueberry bush to see if they could help control F. nucleatum. They found that the extracts had three positive effects.

First, the blueberry extract inhibited the growth of F. nucleatum. Second, the extract prevented F. nucleatum from forming biofilms. Biofilms are when bacteria bond together under a gooey blanket of proteins for protection against threats like saliva. When they’re stuck to your teeth, we call biofilms plaque. Finally, the extract inhibited the immune system’s inflammatory response. Although it’s good for the body to respond to threats, the inflammatory response can be damaging (for example, brain inflammation contributes to Alzheimer’s disease and it’s the body’s response, not bacteria, that cause most of the bone loss due to gum disease), so less of it can help protect the body.

Still in Development

So the blueberry extract seems like just the thing we need to defend against gum disease. It stops the bacteria from growing, makes them easier to remove from our teeth, and helps us avoid damaging immune responses. Sign us up!

Unfortunately, we don’t know when this technology will actually be available. But in the meantime, if you are looking for a River Edge dentist that uses the latest technologies to protect the health and beauty of your teeth, please call (201) 343-4044 for an appointment at the River Edge Dental Center for Cosmetic & General Dentistry.