The traditional message is familiar: to care for your teeth, steer clear of sweets. But what if there was a sweet out there that actually fought cavities?
While this may sound like a fairy tale, researchers at a German firm are working to make it reality. The firm, Organobalance, seeks to integrate bio-solutions to health problems– and they’re tackling the problem of cavities next.
The cavity problem
As you may know, sugar isn’t the direct cause of cavities; rather, it fans the flames of tooth destruction by feeding cavity-causing bacteria, like streptococcus mutans. These bacteria form protective biofilms— essentially an aggregate of millions of bacteria surrounded by an extracellular “matrix” or fluid– on our teeth. The bacteria use biofilms as their location of choice for eating… and their food of choice is sugar.
This sugar comes in the form of simple carbohydrates like breads and fruits (that’s why we encourage brushing, even after a healthy meal), but if candy or sweetened drinks were on the menu those bacteria are enjoying a feast! As they eat, bacteria metabolize sugar into acid– acid that they then release from their one-celled bodies right onto your acid-sensitive dental enamel. Too much of this, and dental enamel begins to degrade…. and a cavity forms.
The “bio” solution
To combat the cavity problem, researchers at Organobalance have decided to fight fire with fire. They’ve created a sweet that contains another type of bacteria– lactobacillus paracasei— one that stops cavity causing bacteria at its own game!
How does this work?
It goes back to biofilms. Recall that streptococcus mutans creates a biofilm– – in which it eats its sugary meal and passes its acidic metabolic byproduct. The lactobacillus paracasei stop this biofilm from happening by binding to the harmful bacteria and preventing them from sticking to our teeth.
According to researchers, the “good” bacteria lactobacillus paracasei are released after the sweet has been sucked on in the mouth. They then bind to the caries-causing bacteria, and all are eventually swallowed and then excreted from the body further down the chain of digestive command. Those bacteria never have a chance at making cavities.
The researchers have found 75% of test participants have lowered levels of oral streptococcus mutans after only one sweet. The research is still ongoing, but the company is hopeful that the sweet may eventually prove to be an additional weapon in the fight for oral health!
New research on fighting cavities is interesting, but by far the most time-tested and proven method of maintaining oral health is through good preventive care: brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits. Is your next dental appointment scheduled yet? Take time now to schedule your visit with Dr. Ostenson, your Vancouver WA dentist.
We look forward to seeing you!