Dental science is making leaps and bounds in the medical world. We’ve come a long way from having the town barber yank out problem teeth to being able to place dental implants that prevent bone loss and restore function in the mouth. We’re on the precipice of understanding how the health of the mouth affects our total body wellness, and even on the brink of understanding how a probiotic could be used to prevent cavities in cavity-prone populations.
If that last statement sounds like science fiction to you, let us explain! Dentists all around the world understand that acidity in the mouth is what causes dental caries. Acid is caused by sugars that breed harmful bacteria that remains on our teeth, we call this plaque. It is a dentist’s job to remove that plaque and bacteria, and to teach our patients how to keep their teeth healthy by brushing, flossing, and watching what they eat. Two dental researchers from Dr. Shields’ Alma mater, the University of Florida College of Dentistry, set to find out what caused pH in the mouth. With their findings they hoped to better understand what causes cavities and how to best prevent them.
Their studies revealed a previously unknown strain of bacteria that keeps bad bacteria under control, this bacteria is a strain of streptococcus that researchers are calling A12. In the future, researchers are hopeful that a probiotic could be developed using A12, and could prevent cavities in people who are cavity prone.
There are two compounds that need to be broken down into ammonia to help neutralize acid in the mouth, they are urea and arginine. If these compounds can be broken into ammonia, acid is reduced and cavities are prevented. Researchers know that those who can break down the compound, especially arginine, had fewer or no cavities as compared to people who did not have good bacteria to break down those compounds.
After testing more than 2000 bacteria, researchers discovered 54 bacteria capable of breaking down the compounds. But, A12 had ability to break down arginine into ammonia and prevent cavities probiotically.
Upon learning of this fantastic strain of bacteria they studied its entire genome. In the future, they may be able to create a screening tool that can measure the amount of A12 a person has and calculate their susceptibility to cavities. Even further, this bacteria could be cultivated into an oral probiotic that may curb the occurrence of cavities in children and cavity-prone adults. This A12 probiotic may be able to provide essential bacteria necessary for metabolizing acid-causing compounds.
Not only did the researchers at the University of Florida find that A12 helps break down arginine and balance pH, but it also was found to kill or hinder the function of a harmful strain of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. This strain of Streptococcus breaks down sugar into lactic acid, which in turn creates an environment where bacteria can proliferate and cause cavities.
This is exciting news for people who maintain an oral health routine, yet still find themselves suffering from cavity after cavity. While a probiotic to help prevent cavities is a long way off, preventing them the old fashioned way is still sitting on your bathroom sink.
The most sure-fire way to remove the bacteria that causes plaque and cavities is to brush and floss your teeth. While our bacterial friends certainly do help, do them a favor and pick up that tube of tooth paste and roll of floss. Bad bacteria is going to make it into our mouths every day. Getting rid of them and slowing their entrance all depends upon you. If you limit the amount of sugary snacks and drinks you consume, you effectively decrease the food supply of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth. When you brush and floss, you remove a significant amount of bacteria and protect yourself from tooth decay and gum disease.
If you have questions about how to protect yourself from cavities and gum disease, or simply want to schedule an appointment to have tour teeth professionally cleaned, give your Jacksonville dentist a call today. We love to help our patients understand their oral health and protect them from cavities and gum disease.