Last updated March 1, 2018 at 10:04 am
Recommendations for good oral hygiene may soon include drinking a daily glass of red wine, recent research suggests.
Polyphenols, elements found in red wine and grape seeds, stop the bacteria that cause caries and plaque from sticking to teeth and gums, preventing them from taking up residence, a new study has found.
The effect is increased if the polyphenols are combined with a bacterial species called Streptococcus dentisani, an oral probiotic.
The research, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, tested the effects of red wine against Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for caries, Fusobacterium nucleatum, which causes gingivitis lesions, and Porphyromonas gingivalis, linked to chronic periodontitis.
The research team, led by Adelaida Esteban-Fernandez of the Instituto de Investigacion en Ciencias de la Alimentacio ́in Spain, found that two polyphenols derived from wine – Vitaflavan and Provinols – as well as two associated phenolic metabolites (caffeic acid and p-courmaric acid), reduced the ability of the microbes to adhere to teeth and form biofilm. They also reduced the size of the microbial population, and lessened gum inflammation associated with bacterial infection.
The result was a slight surprise, because until now it was thought that polyphenols and bacteria did not interact with each other until the former reached the gut. There, the body’s microbiota break down them down into simple phenols, lactones and aromatic acids. It is thought that this process is responsible for catalysing other positive health effects that have been linked to moderate red wine consumption, including boosts to colon and heart health.
The scientists found that digestion of red wine polyphenols begins in the mouth, with the compounds starting to break down as a result of saliva enzymes, chewing and microbes resident in the oral cavity.
They note that there is some evidence to suggest at least one particular compound found in wine and grape seeds – flavan-3-ols – is degraded by mouth bacteria. However, they add, “knowledge about the role of oral components in phenolic metabolism is still preliminary”.
The team’s findings about the helpful actions of red wine in fighting tooth decay – and the fact that Streptococcus dentisani amplifies them – were made through laboratory experiments.
The next step, the researchers say, is to conduct further tests with the aim of teasing out the molecular mechanisms at work. After that, they recommended switching up the research to involve real wine-drinking humans, in order to “evaluate the potential of polyphenols as preventive therapies” in managing common dental diseases.