There are more bacteria in your mouth than there are humans on Earth. Most of these are beneficial and benign. Some of them are not, capable of causing dental health problems like gum disease and tooth decay. We spend quite a bit of time each day — and if you’re not, you should be — making sure the malignant bacteria don’t cause problems, whether it’s brushing and flossing our teeth, gargling mouthwash, or using a water pick. Sometimes we fight malicious bacteria without even realizing it! Indeed, did you know that you may be helping to protect your oral health every time you drink a beer?
How Beer Can Help Your Teeth
During colonial America, much of our beer was imported from England. Brewers would put their product on ships, which would then transport them to the colonies via the Atlantic Ocean. This was a 4,000+ mile trip that gave bacteria on the ship plenty of opportunities to consume and rot the barrel-bounded beer. To protect their wares, English and European brewers soon began to make the hop, the female flowers of Humulus lupulus (also known as the hop plant), a common ingredient to their recipes. As it turned out, hop helped to stave off bacterial infection that would otherwise ruin a good batch of beer. Since then, hop has remained a staple ingredient, albeit more so for the taste and aroma it adds to the brew, rather than for its anti-bacterial properties.
While 17th and 18th centuries brewers may not have been aware of the exact properties of hop that made it a great solution against bacterial rot, modern researchers have discovered some of the plant’s secrets. In 2008, researchers from Osaka University found that hop contains polyphenols, a group of molecules already known to help prevent oral cancer. Scientists found that they’re also useful for preventing gum disease, stopping their inflammation and keeping the gums a healthy punk. Another team, this one from Nippon Dental University, also found that polyphenols can stop the growth and development of plaque, which in turn helps to ensure that bacteria don’t have the scaffolding to damage our gums and teeth.
The studies focused on the bracts, or leaves, of the hop plant, which is unfortunately usually discarded by brewers since they don’t add much in the sense of taste or smell. While bracts may certainly contain more of these dental-friendly molecules than other parts of the plant, it nevertheless remains true that the hop in your favourite beer may be helping you protect your teeth from cavities, periodontal infections, and other oral health problems.
Not all beers are made equal, however. Dark beers are known for staining teeth. Other beers may not contain much hop at all, and their dental health value may be dubious. If you’re interested in a refreshing brew that can aid in keeping your mouth clean and healthy, look for a hop-heavy ale, such as an India Pale Ale. Keep that in mind for the next time you check out a local brewery, such as the Issaquah Brew House or RAM Restaurant & Brewery.
Schedule Your Dental Checkup at Eastside Comprehensive
No matter how much hop-heavy beer you drink, how well you brush your teeth, and how meticulously you brush, there’s no substitute for the dental checkup. In fact, you should be visiting your dentist no less than twice a year. At Eastside Comprehensive Dentistry, we can help keep your teeth clean of plaque and bacteria, checking for any infections before they grow and develop into something much worse. Put your smile in expert hands and contact us today to schedule your consultation with Dr Kelley Fisher: (425) 392-1256.