Certain natural remedies may help protect against tooth decay, a common health problem that occurs when acids in plaque eat away at teeth and create cavities. Although no alternative treatment should be used in place of standard oral hygiene practices, there's some evidence that natural remedies may fight plaque and help prevent tooth decay.
How Can Natural Remedies Stop Tooth Decay?
Plaque formation begins when bacteria naturally present in the mouth convert food into acids. When those acids combine with saliva and the bacteria, plaque develops and sticks to the teeth. If the plaque is not removed, tooth decay sets in. Preliminary research suggests that some natural remedies may help defend against tooth decay by killing bacteria and stopping plaque from attaching to the teeth.
The Science Behind Natural Remedies for Tooth Decay
Here's a look at several natural remedies studied for their effects on tooth decay:
Several studies suggest that regular tea consumption may reduce the incidence and severity of tooth decay. A 2003 study on hamsters, for instance, found that black tea decreased tooth decay among animals fed a cavity-promoting diet. Earlier research in rats indicates that antioxidants found in oolong tea may help hinder the development of tooth decay.
Compounds found in cranberry may fight tooth decay by inhibiting acid production and stopping bacteria from sticking to the teeth, according to a research review published in 2008. The study's authors also note that cranberry may also guard against other oral diseases, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Preliminary research suggests that shiitake (a type of medicinal mushroom) may help prevent tooth decay. In a 2000 study on rats, scientists discovered that shiitake-fed animals were less likely to develop cavities (compared to rats that weren't fed shiitake).
Should You Use Natural Remedies for Tooth Decay?
To protect against tooth decay (and diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis), make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least daily, and visit a dentist for regular checkups. Whenever possible, brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after eating chewy, sticky, sugary, and/or starchy foods (all of which may promote plaque formation and buildup). Although early research suggests that adding natural remedies to your oral care may be of some benefit, it's too soon to recommend any natural treatment for tooth decay prevention.
Bodet C, Grenier D, Chandad F, Ofek I, Steinberg D, Weiss EI. "Potential oral health benefits of cranberry." Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2008 Aug;48(7):672-80.
Hamilton-Miller JM. "Anti-cariogenic properties of tea (Camellia sinensis)." J Med Microbiol. 2001 Apr;50(4):299-302.
Linke HA, LeGeros RZ. "Black tea extract and dental caries formation in hamsters." Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2003 Jan;54(1):89-95.
National Institutes of Health. "Dental cavities: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". August 2010.
Ooshima T, Minami T, Aono W, Izumitani A, Sobue S, Fujiwara T, Kawabata S, Hamada S. "Oolong tea polyphenols inhibit experimental dental caries in SPF rats infected with mutans streptococci." Caries Res. 1993;27(2):124-9.
Shouji N, Takada K, Fukushima K, Hirasawa M. "Anticaries effect of a component from shiitake (an edible mushroom)." Caries Res. 2000 Jan-Feb;34(1):94-8.