Functional* foods are especially healthful, and some were evaluated in this study for the ability to reduce the development of gingivitis and caries. Laboratory assays were performed using extracts of foods against types of bacteria commonly associated with oral infections.
Caries is one of the most common infections in humans, and is caused by loss of minerals from teeth due to the acids produced when plaque bacteria ferment carbohydrates. The most common bacterial agents are Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus. They adhere to teeth and rapidly ferment sucrose sugars. Approaches to control caries include (1) removing carbohydrates from the diet, (2) elimination of the problem bacteria, (3) prevention of plaque and bacterial adhesion, (4) interference with bacterial metabolism, and (5) increasing the resistance of tooth enamel to acids.
Gingivitis is the most prevalent periodontal disease, and can be prevented by specific agents applied topically in mouthwashes and toothpastes. The accumulation of tooth plaque around the gums results in gingivitis, reversible by careful hygiene. Plaque is a biofilm on the surface of teeth which causes inflammation. There are a number of bacteria which can contribute to gingivitis, but diets rich in vitamin C and folate prevent gingivitis.
Foods which have shown beneficial activity against caries include tea, propolis, Lentinus edodes, apples, hops, cacao, and roasted coffee. Beneficial foods against gingivitis include green tea, cranberry juice, hops, and coffee.
A number of assays for food extracts were devised to find foods which could prevent and treat caries and gingivitis. Of importance was the ability of the foods to prevent biofilm formation, and to prevent acid formation by fermentation. The foods were tested for their ability to prevent attachment to or cause detachment from hydroxyapatite surfaces.
Cranberry, green tea, black tea, beer, raspberry, chicory, and mushrooms were good at preventing biofilm formation, although chicory could not inhibit the production of biofilm by S. mutans in the absence of sucrose. Because of intellectual property rights, cranberry, green tea, and black tea were not further tested. However, chicory, raspberry and mushrooms were tested as anti-carries agents.
The LMM (low molecular mass) fractions of shiitake mushrooms and chicory were best at interrupting biofilms from caries and gingivitis. The HMM (high molecular mass) fraction of raspberry was best. Based on all the assays, the LMM fractions of shiitake and chicory were most active. Unfortunately, the fraction of raspberry contained most of the fruit sugars. Aqueous extracts of shiitake have been shown to have antimicrobial effects on food-borne pathogens.
CONCLUSION: Mushroom and chicory extracts and low molecular mass fractions were shown to have benefits of anti-caries and anti-gingivitis properties. Testing is suggested on humans.
NOTE: *Functional foods are those which have been found to have specific chemicals which are especially beneficial to human health.
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