Functional Foods for Healthy Teeth
In this video, Dr. Christine Wu explains how her team's research is benefiting oral health using everyday functional foods such as cranberries, tea and milk.
For more than two decades, Dr. Wu’s lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry has focused on the exploration and identification of plant-derived anti-plaque and anti-biofilm compounds against oral pathogens. In recent years, her laboratory has been engaged in clinical and translational studies to evaluate the oral health benefits of specific foods and beverages, especially dietary plant polyphenols (catechins and proanthocynandins) including teas, raisins, cranberries and dried plums. She is an advocate of and promotes functional foods and beverages for oral health.
Dental plaque bacteria on tooth surfaces ferment dietary sugars and carbohydrates to produce acids that can cause demineralization of the enamel surface, thus leading to tooth decay. The usual dietary advice for caries prevention is to limit frequent intake of sugars. A recent study published by Dr. Wu’s research team showed that, in adults, the cariogenic potential of sugars may be modified by the ingestion of non-cariogenic foods such as milk. “However, it remains unknown whether a similar situation exists in children, who frequently consume sugary snacks/juices and lack awareness of proper follow-up oral hygiene measures,” she noted.
Functional Foods Research at UIC
Dr. Christine Wu, Professor, Pediatric Dentistry, was awarded a research grant in 2015 for her study, “Consumption of milk after sugar snacks reduces dental plaque acid production and benefits oral health in children.” She was one of seven researchers awarded funding, out of 80 who competed to be funded by the National Dairy Council (NDC) for two years.
This latest study builds upon previous functional foods and products research Dr. Wu’s lab has conduced, which focuses on the exploration and identification of plant-derived anti-plaque and anti-biofilm compounds against oral pathogens. In recent years, her laboratory has been engaged in clinical and translational studies to evaluate the oral health benefits of specific foods and beverages, especially dietary plant polyphenols (catechins and proanthocynandins) including teas, raisins, cranberries and dried plums.
The study will generate awareness that compared to water or the numerous sugar-added fruit juices available on the market, milk may be “the healthy beverage of choice to prevent tooth decay, especially after consumption of sugary snacks or desserts,” Dr. Wu said. “We want to raise public awareness that milk, besides its caries protective effect, when sequenced properly between and especially after sugary snacks, can reduce caries risk and benefit oral health, especially in children. We anticipate that the dairy industry will serve as a front runner in leading other beverage industries to promote healthy and functional beverages for oral health.”
Eat Fruits and Veggies For A Healthy Smile
What are the best foods for healthy teeth?
Healthy prevention is the best medicine for your smile and dental health is more important than you may realize for overall health. What you eat plays a big role in this. The foods you choose, when and how often you eat them not only affect your general health, but also the health of your teeth and gums. The good news is tooth decay is entirely preventable with good dental hygiene, regular dental visits – and a healthy diet.
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