Can the Cause of Tooth Decay be a Hint for the Cure?

Oct 22nd, 2012 | By | Category: Dental News, Tooth Decay

Tooth DecayFor thousands of years, perhaps longer, humans have sought to treat tooth decay. Even early examples of our ancestors’ attempts show surprising cunning and understanding of tooth anatomy, and evidence from as early as 7000 BC includes back molars with holes carved out of them that are reminiscent of the procedure for removing tooth decay before a dental filling is placed. While understanding the processes of tooth decay has helped greatly in treating its effects, ambitious experts now seek to prevent the formation of tooth decay, rather than wait for it to attack to treat it. In a breakthrough study from a researcher in Florida, the answer to defeating tooth decay may lie in the secret of its formation. Your Richmond dentist, Dr. Stefan Moiceanu, discusses the study that successfully combated the tooth decay bacterium by modifying its natural bacterial predator.

Fighting Germs with Germs

Scientists have identified over 600 different kinds of bacteria swimming around in your mouth, but have singled out one in particular as perhaps the greatest instigator of tooth decay. While almost all oral bacteria thrive on the nutrients you consume, Streptococcus mutans converts sugars and carbs into lactic acid, which it excretes over the surfaces of your teeth. This acid begins the tooth decay process by attacking and eroding your tooth enamel to allow bacteria access to your inner tooth structure. Since the early 1980s, professor of oral biology Jeffrey Hillman, from the University of Florida, has sought a way to eliminate S. mutans, thereby neutralizing its tooth-decaying abilities. His efforts have netted him the discovery of a certain bacterial strain whose excreted toxin is fatal to the S. mutans strain. Hillman’s first step was to neutralize this strain’s own acid production, after which he and his team modified it further to survive only if fed a particular nutrient—a safeguard meant to prevent the spread of the bacteria from person to person.

Staying Vigilant in Oral Health Care

Early tests on mice have proved successful, and prototypes have been tested in three volunteers; however, converting these findings into a tangible treatment option may take awhile. In the meantime, you can continue to protect yourself against the damage of tooth decay by following a diligent oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing at least twice a day. Don’t forget to attend your six-month dental checkup, as well, to allow Dr. Moiceanu to inspect your teeth for early signs of decay. To learn more about optimizing your oral health, contact Dr. Moiceanu at our Richmond, CA dentist office by calling 510-758-7222. Located in Richmond, we proudly serve families from Berkeley, San Pablo, Pinole, Benicia, Vallejo, and the surrounding communities.

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