There are many delicious traditional foods associated with Thanksgiving. The turkey, the mashed potatoes, the dressing. Depending on your preferences, you may look forward to some and pass on others. But there’s one that you definitely shouldn’t avoid: cranberry sauce.

Enjoy cranberries at Thanksgiving and all year round because of their ability to combat oral bacteria, improving your health and reducing the risk of gum disease and cavities.

How Cranberries Protect Your Oral Health

Cranberries contain many compounds that inhibit the ability of bacteria to bind to each other and to surfaces in the body. These compounds, a type of polyphenol known as proanthocyanidins, are responsible for the well-known impact of cranberry juice in preventing urinary tract infections. However, they also have a role in preventing oral health problems.

In studies of cranberry extracts, these compounds can reduce the creation of plaque by up to 95% in certain types of Streptococcus bacteria associated with tooth decay. In order to adhere to your teeth, bacteria use certain complex sugars, but cranberry extracts impair the ability of bacteria to make these sugars. In addition, cranberry proanthocyanidins interfere with the ability of bacteria to make acid, so even the bacteria that survive and manage to bind to your teeth will be much less damaging.

Cranberry proanthocyanidins also prevent bacteria responsible for gum disease from making biofilms. The compounds limit the presence of certain amino acids, which prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria in your mouth. In addition, cranberries reduce the production of compounds that destroy your gum tissue and bone, limiting the damage caused by gum disease.

Is This a Practical Effect?

Sometimes researchers conduct experiments on extracts in concentrations that we just can’t achieve. But in the case of cranberries, research shows you can definitely get this effect from consuming reasonable amounts of cranberries. A study showed that consuming a beverage with 25% cranberry juice reduced plaque growth by 67-85%.

We don’t have good, long-term data on how much of an impact this has on your oral health, but it certainly seems this could be a significant effect.

Maximizing Benefit on Thanksgiving

To get the full benefit of cranberries on Thanksgiving, make homemade cranberry sauce rather than using the canned sauce. That way, you know how much cranberry you are really consuming, rather than just sugar, gelatin, and beet juice. And while we’re mentioning sugar, try to use recipes that have less added sugar. Sugar feeds oral bacteria, and with enough of it, they can overcome the inhibiting effect of proanthocyanidins.

And, of course, remember that this kind of natural remedy is no substitute for regular dental checkups. If you’re overdue for a checkup, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment with a Las Vegas dentist at the office of Dr. James B. Polley.