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The Little Cranberry That Packs a Big Punch
By Marianne Harper

Who would think that something so little as a cranberry could yield so many health benefits? The cranberry, which we usually associate with turkey, Thanksgiving meals, and Christmas tree garlands, also contributes to oral health.

You may already be aware that research has confirmed that cranberries are among the highest sources of antioxidants of all foods tested. Antioxidants are disease fighters. "Mounting scientific evidence supports the conclusion that a diet with antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, other preliminary studies show that cranberries contain specific nutrients that can slow cancer cell growth."1 More research has emerged that links cranberries to fighting urinary tract infections and the prevention of stomach ulcers.2

A study on tooth decay by the University of Rochester in New York has shown that cranberries can prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to teeth, thereby decreasing plaque formation. Canadian researchers have found that cranberries have strong anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties that form a "Teflon-like barrier between P. gingivalis bacteria and gum formation.3 This property helps to keep bacteria from adhering, thus decreasing the possibility of infection that can lead to periodontitis.

So how do we advise our patients concerning cranberries? We can recommend toothpastes and flosses that have recently been manufactured that contain cranberries. We can also suggest the addition of cranberries into the diet. But we must also let our patients know that cranberries and cranberry products are naturally very acidic, which can cause a temporary softening of enamel after consumption. In addition, manufacturers usually sweeten their cranberry products. There are All Natural 100% pure cranberry juices in stores like "Trader Joe's" and "Whole Foods"...these don't taste nearly as sweet as the ones with added sugar (like Ocean spray) but are much better for you. Advise your patients to incorporate cranberries into their diets during mealtimes only and to, of course, brush their teeth after the meal.

Dentistry today is realizing the impact it can have on overall body health. As we approach the point when dentistry will become oral medicine, one of our jobs will be to further educate our patients in how to achieve better health. News of the oral and overall body health benefits of the little cranberry needs to be spread to all of our patients.

  1. "Press Releases", The Cranberry Institute
  2. "Cranberries May Prevent Periodontal Disease", OsseoNews, The World of
    Implant Dentistry Online
  3. Jean Carter, "Cranberries Protect Gums", USA Weekend, September 1-3,
    (2006)


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