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Gum disease is a common condition among adults. This is when bacteria form biofilms or plaques on teeth, the gums become inflamed (gingivitis), they get red and swollen, and they bleed easily. If left unchecked, the condition can progress to periodontitis.
The plaque hardens into tartar, creating significant potential for infection that could destroy tissues supporting the teeth. To treat this condition, dentists scrape off the tartar and sometimes necessitate antibiotic treatment.
With a rise in antibiotic resistance, however, alternative approaches to dealing with oral bacteria have become crucial. As a result, researchers have been exploring natural antibacterial compounds to treat gum disease.
Daniel Grenier and colleagues wanted to see if blueberry polyphenols which help combat foodborne pathogens, could also be effective in fighting Fusobacterium nucleatum, one of the main species of bacteria associated with periodontitis.
The researchers tested polyphol-rich blueberry extract from the wild lowbush blueberry plant (Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.), which in the lab successfully inhibited the growth of Fusobacterium nucleatum and handicapped its ability to form biofilms on teeth. It also blocked the molecular pathway involved in gum inflammation, further helping to prevent negative effects of gum disease.
Following the success of the lab test, the researchers are now developing a device that could be used after deep cleaning that would provide a slow release of the blueberry extract to help treat periodontitis.
The study was published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry on August 4, 2015.