29 Jan 2012

Bacteria key player in dental problems

Bacteria key player in dental problems
Dear Dr. Reitz: I am 30 years old and never needed a filling. Have scientific
discoveries eliminated cavities or am I just lucky. - June of Reading
Dear June: The addition of fluoride to water and toothpaste has hardened teeth, making them more resistant to the acids produced by oral bacteria, but it has not eliminated tooth decay.In my dental practice I have patients that have never had a cavity and others with multiple areas of decay. Cavities usually are blamed on eating candy, but candy is only one part of the problem. The chance of getting tooth decay islikely related to the amount of a specific bacteria - Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) - present in the mouth.

The mouth is home to thousands of different bacteria. It has been known for many years that S mutans is the bacteria most responsible for tooth decay, finding a method of eliminating it has been the problem. Most methods of killing oral bacteria only work for a short time, plus having some beneficial bacteria is important to prevent overgrowth of yeast. New research from the UCLA School of Dentistry may have found a method of selectively removing S mutans.

Research conduced by oral biologist Dr. Wenyuan Shi of UCLA with support of Colgate Palmolive has produced a mouthwash that selectively targets S mutans using antimicrobial peptides. You may remember I wrote in a previous column about Dr. Shi's licorice root extract lollipops that target and disable the bacteria responsible for tooth decay.Well, he's at it again, this time creating an antimicrobial mouthwash.

The mouthwash contains antimicrobial peptides that eliminate only the harmful S mutans. Twelve patients who rinsed just one time with the experimental mouthwash experienced a nearly complete elimination of the S. mutans bacteria over a four-day testing period. Based on the success of this clinical trial Dr. Shi's company has filed a drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to begin more extensive clinical trials in March. If the FDA approves this new antimicrobial peptide it will be the first anti-dental decay drug since fluoride was licensed nearly 60 years ago.

The new concept of using targeted antimicrobial peptides may do more than just eliminate tooth decay. This work may be the beginning for developing additional target-specific antimicrobials to combat other diseases.

You have been fortunate to escape tooth decay, targeted antimicrobial peptides may soon eliminate tooth decay for those not as lucky.

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