Plaque formation begins when bacteria naturally present in the mouth convert food into acids. When those acids combine with saliva and the bacteria, plaque develops and sticks to the teeth. If the plaque is not removed, tooth decay sets in.
Preliminary research suggests that some natural remedies may help defend against tooth decay by killing bacteria and stopping plaque from attaching to the teeth.
Here’s a look at several natural remedies studied for their effects on tooth decay.
There’s some evidence that vitamin C could play a role in protecting gum health. In a study published in the Journal of Periodontology in 2000, for example, researchers analyzed data on 12,419 adults and found that those who consumed the least vitamin C had the greatest risk of periodontal disease.
For help in filling up on vitamin C, include foods such as grapefruit, oranges, kiwi, mango, papaya, strawberry, red pepper, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe in your diet.
Studies suggest that regular tea consumption may reduce the incidence and severity of tooth decay. A 2003 study on hamsters, for instance, found that black tea decreased tooth decay among animals fed a cavity-promoting diet. Earlier research in rats indicates that antioxidants found in oolong tea may help hinder the development of tooth decay.
Compounds found in cranberry may fight tooth decay by inhibiting acid production and stopping bacteria from sticking to the teeth, according to a research review published in 2008.3 The study’s authors also note that cranberry may also guard against other oral diseases, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Preliminary research suggests that shiitake (a type of medicinal mushroom) may help prevent tooth decay. In a 2000 study on rats, scientists discovered that shiitake-fed animals were less likely to develop cavities (compared to rats that weren’t fed shiitake).
Some research shows that cranberry may help thwart gum disease by preventing bacteria from sticking to your teeth. What’s more, a preliminary study published in the Journal of Periodontal Research in 2013 suggests that compounds found in cranberry may help regulate periodontitis-related inflammation.5
Tips for Using a Natural Approach to Oral Health
To protect against tooth decay, make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least daily, and visit a dentist for regular checkups. Whenever possible, brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after eating chewy, sticky, sugary, and/or starchy foods (all of which may promote plaque formation and buildup).
Although early research suggests that adding natural remedies to your oral care may be of some benefit, it’s too soon to recommend any natural treatment for tooth decay prevention.
It’s also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you’re considering using natural remedies, make sure to consult your physician and dentist first.