Imagine a world without cavities. Since 2005, that’s exactly what Jose Cordova of Yale University and Erich Astudillo from the University of Chile have done. Their efforts have netted them the discovery of a molecule that could revolutionize dental care by actively fighting tooth decay. Erlanger dentist Dr. Darlene Sand Wall discusses the discovery and what it could mean for the future of human teeth.
The Basics of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is almost as common as the cold. In fact, cavities are the number one disease in children. The accolades for this achievement go to the bacteria Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans, which metabolize refined sugar and turn it into lactic acid. They do not need oxygen, so they favor sneaking into the tight spaces between adjacent teeth and quietly mounting acid attacks against your teeth every time you eat or drink. S. mutans inhabits the oral cavity and contributes to the formation of plaque (bacterial plaque). The only way to effectively protect your teeth from the decay it can cause is to neutralize its acid production. Traditionally, this is done by brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day, attending your six month dental checkup, and refraining from sugary foods and beverages like candy, sweets, fruit juices, and sodas.
Going on the Offensive
In order to reduce the rate of the tooth decay epidemic, Cordova and Astudillo began researching ways to actively fight the formation of decay, instead of just protecting against it. The molecule they’ve discovered, which they’ve named Keep 32 after the number of teeth in a human mouth, actively seeks and kills the S. mutans bacteria. The molecule can be incorporated into products like toothpaste, mouthwash, or candy, and for the first time in human history, can pave the way for cavity-proof teeth. The researchers have several parties interested in investing, and are awaiting trials on humans.
In the meantime, be sure to continue your daily oral hygiene routine, and visit Dr. Sand Wall at least once every six months for a thorough checkup. To learn more about your oral health, or to schedule a consultation, call our Erlanger, Kentucky dentist’s office at (859) 344-8500.