Your Rochester Dentist Discusses Tooth Decay, Gum Disease, and Licorice

Licorice RootScientists recently discovered a potential new use for dried licorice root. In a study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products, researchers identified two substances in licorice that may combat tooth decay and gum disease, giving credence to the use of licorice in traditional Chinese medicine.

Possible New Application for a Traditional Ingredient

The Chinese have used dried licorice root for centuries as a medicinal aid, typically to enhance ingredients in other herbal medicines. Researchers found another use for dried licorice root, identifying two natural ingredients in the root that combat tooth decay and gum disease—licoricidin and licorisoflavan A.

Cavities form when harmful bacteria in your mouth secrete acids that erode tooth enamel. These acids strip away the hard, outer-layer of your teeth that protect the soft, inner layer from decay. Oral bacteria also cause periodontal disease. Symptoms of gum disease include swollen, bleeding gums. Gingivitis is an early form of the disease that, when left unchecked, can develop into periodontitis, which can lead to tooth and bone loss. The two compounds researchers discovered in dried licorice root kill two of the major types of cavity-causing bacteria. Additionally, licoricidin kills a major bacterial culprit for gum disease.

Word of Caution

Before you buy licorice root to help combat tooth decay, you should know researchers have not yet determined the best applications of these natural ingredients in dried licorice. In fact, dried licorice root can interact negatively with prescription drugs. Check with your doctor before you take dried licorice root for any reason. You should also know the delicious licorice candy found at your local drug store does not contain licorice root. Manufacturers now substitute the ingredient with similar tasting anise oil. Instead of preventing cavities, eating candy licorice may actually put you at greater risk of developing them.

Schedule an Appointment

The application of dried licorice root in the war against tooth decay is years down the road. Your best defense is still brushing twice daily, flossing once a day, and maintaining regular six-month dental cleanings with your Rochester dentist, Dr. Calcagno. To schedule your next appointment, please call our Rochester dentist office at (507) 281-3659. We serve patients from Rochester, Red Wing, St. Charles, Winona, Farmington, and the surrounding communities.