With St. Patrick's day just around the corner people all over the globe will be scrambling for their green shirts, funny green glasses, and of course, mugs of ice cold beer. On March 17th, Ireland and all of its traditions are celebrated, so of course beer has become a staple in St. Patrick's day festivities. However, there is more to this sudsy beverage than once thought, and recent discoveries about beer, specifically the hops that go into beer, have dentists everywhere jumping for joy.
Hops, the female flower of the Humulus Lupulus, and the ingredient in beer that gives the drink its distinctive taste are good for your teeth. Yes, that's right, good for them! A drink of beer this St. Patty's day should give you more than one reason to smile because, as your sipping your teeth and gums are getting a healthy boost in their overall health.
Now, to better understand what were raving about, let's take a look at the history of hops in beer. In 18th century, England beer was already a very well known and popular beverage. In fact, it was a major export of the country. Unfortunately, during this period in history everything that was exported was done so by ship. This means the over sea voyages food and drink would undergo could take a long time. A very long time. Because of this, many times when the exports would arrive at their destinations the recipients would open their crates to find the product they purchased had spoiled. Of course, the recipients refused to pay for spoiled goods and exporters suffered a substantial monetary loss. Something had to be done and fast.
In beer's case, the drink had a tendency to succumb to various bacteria while traveling and this would cause it to spoil. Hops were already an ingredient in beer, but exporters soon found that beer with more hops in it did not spoil. This was the start to the recipes of beer around the world being forever altered, and nowadays, the increase in hops has become a necessity not because it keeps the beer fresh, but because people have grown to love the taste it resulted in.
Here's where the dentists come in. Dentists are scientists engaged in a lifelong rally for the health of teeth. All scientists, biologists, chemists, etc. are an insatiably curious bunch. So in 1937 when antiseptic properties were discovered in hops, dentists jumped on it. For years, the dental field has been in search of a natural way to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and in light of this new information, dentists decided to give hops a closer look. It's a good thing they did.
In 2008, a team from Osaka University discovered polyphenols, a group of chemicals known to prevent oral cancer in hops. Further testing revealed that the compounds in polyphenols stopped the inflammation of gums and helped to keep them the healthy pink color dentists are always telling you they should be. Soon after, within the same year, another team from Nippon Dental University uncovered that polyphenols crippled the production of plaque in the mouth, nearly bringing it to a halt when in direct contact with the teeth (don't get us wrong, one sip of beer won't make your teeth invincible for the rest of your life. You still have to brush and floss). As if these revelations weren't enough, yet another amazing discovery was made in 2013. Xanthohumol, another component in hops (which, by the way, has also proven to kill viruses and possesses anti-malarial properties) revealed its ability to prevent plaque from sticking to teeth! Huzzah, beer!
This year, the staff at Sandcreek Dental in Idaho Falls, ID will most definitely be raising a glass in honor of beer, hops, polyphenols and xanthohumol. We think you should too! Just remember to drink responsibly and be safe. If you already have a cavity or any kind of oral health problem, don't hesitate to call Dr. Tall. There is no job too little or too small for him to tackle and he'll have you back out raising a toast to the health of your teeth in no time.
Happy St. Patrick's day fellow teeth enthusiasts and CHEERS!