Look inside a grape and you may find a way to make your teeth stronger.
In a new study, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered that grape seed extract can strengthen a part of the tooth known as dentin and lengthen the life of resin-based tooth fillings.
Publishing their findings in the Journal of Dental Research, the study authors found that grape seed extract produces a “bioadhesion mechanism” that augments the structural integrity of dentin, which is found underneath a tooth’s enamel.
The study offers good news to individuals who have fillings in their mouth composed of composite-resin, which is a combination of plastic and glass materials that can be colored in a hue to match a person’s tooth color.
“When fillings fail, decay forms around it and the seal is lost,” said lead author Ana Bedran-Russo, associate professor of Restorative Dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry.
The failed filling often occurs at the point of contact between the resin-based filling and dentin, which consists mainly of a structural protein known as collagen.
“Resins have to bind to the dentin, but the area between the two, or the interface, is a weak point, causing restorations to breakdown,” noted the researchers.
Yet grape seed extract, which occurs naturally and is linked to other health-promoting properties, appears to turn the tide on the eventual breakdown between the material bonds.
“The interface can be changed through the use of new natural materials,” added Bedran-Russo. “We want to reinforce the interface, which will make the resin bond better to the dentin.”
Easing the Pain
The science behind the new study could help a large percentage of the population. National statistics show that more than 90 percent of American adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have at least one cavity, and that number rises to 96 percent after the age of 65.
Public health officials attribute dental health challenges to a lack of access — either to insurance or routine trips to the dentist. But even for those who visit the dentist regularly, fillings that erode or otherwise break down are common occurrences.
The new application, developed by Bedran-Russo and her colleagues, is based on the working knowledge of plant-based derivatives and how a plant’s flavonoids, or health-boosting antioxidants, can force the collagen in a person’s tooth to repair itself. Again, the benefits of grape seed extract come down to the margin between the filling and the tooth’s natural tissue.
“The stability of the interface is key for the durability of such adhesive joints, and hence, the life of the restoration and minimizing tooth loss,” Bedran-Russo said.
Current fillings last approximately five to seven years on the low end and up to 10 to 15 years on the high end. The study authors hope that their new discovery can help elongate the lifespan of fillings and improve oral care — not to mention a reduction in painful cavity-fixing.
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.