Dr. Paul Perella, DMD

CAN RED WINE PREVENT GUM DISEASE?

Numerous studies have already touted the possible beneficial effects of red wine on your heart and in preventing cancer, but researchers may have found yet another reason to sip merlot or cabernet--to prevent gum disease.

Polyphenols, compounds found in grape seeds and red wine, appear to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help to limit the amount of inflammation caused by bacterial infections of the gums, also known as gingivitis. Additionally, by reducing the inflammation, these compounds may also help prevent the progression of gum disease into a more serious problem, including periodontitis, a chronic infection of the gums that can lead to bleeding, tooth decay and even tooth loss.

"Our tooth findings demonstrate that red wine polyphenols have potent antioxidant properties," concluded the study authors from the Université Laval in Quebec, Canada, who presented the study at a meeting of the American Association for Dental Research.

While these polyphenols have yet to prove their power in a human mouth, when tested on mouse immune cells, it seems their anti-oxidant properties limit the release of chemicals that lead to inflammation and the production of free radicals, which are potent molecules produced by the body in response to a bacterial infection. Free radicals can cause gum disease to progress and eventually lead to periodontitis.

Eighty percent of Americans have some form of gum disease, and it is estimated that 15% of Americans between the age of 21 to 50 suffer from periodontitis. After age 50, 65% of Americans will suffer from this chronic gum disease. Smokers, diabetics and people who take steroids and oral contraceptives are at an increased risk of developing periodontitis.

Since red wine and its effects on gum disease have not yet been studied in humans, Dr. Fatiha Chandad, study author, noted that more investigation is needed to determine exactly how effective the beverage will be in fighting gum disease. However, Chandad said that previous studies have shown that other foods high in ployphenols, like green tea and grapes, help fight gum disease. "Consumption of any fruits or vegetables rich in polyphenols could have beneficial effect on the maintenance of good oral health," she adds.

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