The Fight Against Tooth Decay Gets Help With A New Smart Material

When patients go to the dentist to fill a cavity, they’re trying to solve a problem – not create a new one. But many dental patients get some bad news: bacteria can dig under their tooth-colored fillings and cause new cavities, called recurrent caries. These recurrent caries affect 100 million patients every year and cost an additional $34 billion to treat.

Now, a research collaboration between the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Faculty of Dentistry, and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto has resulted in a novel way to minimize recurrent caries.

In a recent paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, professors Ben Hatton, Yoav Finer and Ph.D. student Cameron Stewart tackled the issue and proposed a novel solution: a filling material with tiny particles made by self-assembly of antimicrobial drugs, designed to stop bacteria in its tracks. These particles may solve one of the biggest problems with antibacterial filling materials: how do you store enough drug within the material to be effective for someone’s entire life?

Fighting Cavity-Causing Bacteria

“Adding particles packed with antimicrobial drugs to a filling creates a line of defense against cavity-causing bacteria,” says Hatton. “But traditionally there’s only been enough drug to last a few weeks. Through this research we discovered a combination of drugs and silica glass that organize themselves on a molecule-by-molecule basis to maximize drug density, with enough supply to last years.” This discovery of using antimicrobials which self-assemble means the team can pack 50 times as much of the bacteria-fighting drugs into the particles.

“We know very well that bacteria specifically attack the margins between fillings and the remaining tooth to create cavities,” says Finer. “Giving these materials an antimicrobial supply that will last for years could greatly reduce this problem.”

Looking ahead, the research team plans on testing these new drug-storing particles in dental fillings, monitoring their performance when attacked by bacteria and saliva in the complex environment in the mouth. With some fine-tuning, this new “smart” material could create a stronger filling and fewer trips to the dentist.

An End To Cavities For People With Sensitive Teeth?

An ice cold drink is refreshing in the summer, but for people with sensitive teeth, it can cause a painful jolt in the mouth. This condition can be treated, but many current approaches don’t last long. Now researchers report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces the development of a new material with an extract from green tea that could fix this problem – and help prevent cavities in these susceptible patients.

Tooth sensitivity commonly occurs when the protective layers of teeth are worn away, revealing a bony tissue called dentin. This tissue contains microscopic hollow tubes that, when exposed, allow hot and cold liquids and food to contact the underlying nerve endings in the teeth, causing pain.


Unprotected dentin is also vulnerable to cavity formation. Plugging these tubes with a mineral called nanohydroxyapatite is a long-standing approach to treating sensitivity. But the material doesn’t stand up well to regular brushing, grinding, erosion or acid produced by cavity-causing bacteria. Cui Huang and colleagues wanted to tackle sensitivity and beat the bacteria at the same time.

Green Tea

The researchers encapsulated nanohydroxyapatite and a green tea polyphenol – epigallocatechin-3-gallate or EGCG in silica nanoparticles, which can stand up to acid and wear and tear. EGCG has been shown in previous studies to fight Streptococcus mutans, which forms biofilms that cause cavities.

Testing on extracted wisdom teeth showed that the material plugged the dentin tubules, released EGCG for at least 96 hours, stood up to tooth erosion and brushing and prevented biofilm formation. It also showed low toxicity. Based on these findings, the researchers say the material could indeed be a good candidate for combating tooth sensitivity and cavities.


How To Prevent Cavities

prevent cavitiesEnsuring the health of your mouth is incredibly vital for a number of reasons. While the standard advice regarding brushing and flossing is absolutely crucial, there are other lesser known ways to help protect the teeth from decay. Common practices like rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth are essential and will definitely go far in protecting the mouth from cavities. Below are some lesser known recommendations that will also protect your teeth and ward of the likelihood of cavities.

One of the ways to prevent cavities is to consume certain foods that protect and strengthen the teeth. One of these foods is cheese. Researchers have found that the calcium levels in the mouth elevate after consuming cheese. We sometimes forget that our teeth are essentially bones, and when we fortify our bones or teeth they become stronger and less likely to be affected negatively by extraneous factors. Due to the increased calcium eating cheese can produce, teeth then become stronger. This also aids in the remineralizing of teeth and helps prevent cavities.

Chewing gum is also a great way to proactively diminish the likelihood of a cavity occurring. But not just any chewing gum will do. Opt for sugar free gum with the natural sugar substitute xylitol, which is known to be a cavity fighter. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is not artificially altered in any way. It naturally helps to prevent the decaying of teeth from occurring. Xylitol does this by preventing the bacteria that builds from plaque and extraneous food that sometimes gets stuck in the saliva from building and causing the erosion and decay of the teeth later on. Make sure to get gum with xylitol listed first in the ingredients, as it’s the most beneficial and the highest concentrated form.

The next tip is for the legally aged crowd. Drinking wine is one of the most relaxing ways to protect your teeth and fight against cavities. There have been numerous studies that show there are certain properties in wine that do actually prevent unnecessary bacteria from growing and decaying away at teeth. The protective property prevents harmful bacteria that can often thrive off of other substances like candy and sugar, and reverses the likelihood of tooth decay. So the next time you want to skip that second glass of wine, think twice. It’s okay to indulge for the sake of your teeth.

By now, you’ve likely become aware of the negative effects that sugary drinks have on your teeth and overall mouth health. It’s true, the sugars and acidity in juice and sodas are terrible for the teeth. If you can’t seem to shake your sugary habit and must indulge in these empty calories, then the best way to partake is by using a straw. When you use a straw, you are helping to minimize the amount of exposure your teeth have with the liquid. It’s best to only drink these types of drinks on occasion. Heavy consumption of soda or juice is damaging not just to teeth.

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Could Fighting Cavities One Day Be As Easy As Taking A Pill?

fighting cavitiesUniversity of Florida Health researchers have identified a new strain of bacteria in the mouth that may keep bad bacteria in check and could lead to a way to prevent cavities using probiotics. The researchers say the findings could lead to the development of a supplement that patients could take orally to prevent cavities.

While developing an effective oral probiotic will require more research, a possible candidate organism has been identified: a previously unidentified strain of Streptococcus, currently called A12. Robert Burne, Ph.D., associate dean for research and chair of the UF College of Dentistry’s department of oral biology, and Marcelle Nascimento, D.D.S., Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Dentistry’s department of restorative dental sciences, published the findings in late January in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

To maintain a healthy mouth, the oral environment must have a relatively neutral chemical makeup or a neutral pH. When the environment in the mouth becomes more acidic, dental cavities or other disorders can develop, according to Burne.

“At that point, bacteria on the teeth make acid and acid dissolves the teeth. It’s straightforward chemistry,” Burne said. “We got interested in what activities keep the pH elevated.”

The A12 Equation

Previous research by Burne, Nascimento and others found two main compounds that are broken down into ammonia, which helps neutralize acid in the mouth. These compounds are urea, which everyone secretes in the mouth, and arginine, an amino acid. Burne and Nascimento had also previously found that both adults and children with few or no cavities were better at breaking down arginine than people with cavities. Researchers knew bacteria were responsible for breaking down these compounds but needed to investigate which bacteria do this best, and how this inhibits cavities. Part of the answer is A12.

“Like a probiotic approach to the gut to promote health, what if a probiotic formulation could be developed from natural beneficial bacteria from humans who had a very high capacity to break down arginine?” said Burne. “You would implant this probiotic in a healthy child or adult who might be at risk for developing cavities. However many times you have to do that – once in a lifetime or once a week – the idea is that you could prevent a decline in oral health by populating the patient with natural beneficial organisms.”

A12 has a potent ability to battle a particularly harmful kind of streptococcal bacteria called Streptococcus mutans, which metabolizes sugar into lactic acid, contributing to acidic conditions in the mouth that form cavities. The UF researchers found that A12 not only helps neutralize acid by metabolizing arginine in the mouth, it also often kills Streptococcus mutans.

“Also, if A12 doesn’t kill Streptococcus mutans, A12 interferes with Streptococcus mutans’ ability to carry out its normal processes that it needs to cause disease,” Burne said. “If you grow them together, Streptococcus mutans does not grow very well or make biofilms, also known as dental plaque, properly.”

Nascimento, a clinician, collected plaque samples for the study. Dental plaque is a mass of bacteria that grows on the surface of teeth and can contribute to the formation of cavities. She isolated more than 2,000 bacteria that the researchers then screened to find bacteria that fit the bill.

“We then characterized 54 bacteria that metabolized arginine,” Nascimento said. “Out of these, A12 stood out for having all of the properties we were looking for in a bacteria strain that could prevent cavities in a probiotic application.”

The researchers sequenced the entire genome of A12 and plan to turn this discovery into a tool to screen for people who are at a higher risk for developing cavities, in combination with other factors such as a patient’s diet and their oral hygiene habits.

“We may be able to use this as a risk assessment tool,” Nascimento said. “If we get to the point where we can confirm that people who have more of this healthy type of bacteria in the mouth are at lower risk of cavities, compared to those who don’t carry the beneficial bacteria and may be at high risk, this could be one of the factors that you measure for cavities risk.”

Next, the researchers hope to find more instances of A12 in a larger sample of people and to test how prevalent bacteria with similar properties are in the human mouth. Burne and his research team of Nascimento, David Culp, Ph.D., in UF’s department of oral biology, and Vincent Richards, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Clemson University, received a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The grant, under award R01DE025832, will allow researchers to study the genomics and ecology of A12 and related bacteria in the oral cavity and examine the mechanisms used by beneficial bacteria to promote oral health.

UW Study Shows Natural Sweetener Xylitol Can Prevent Tooth Decay

As a natural sweetener, xylitol has been used in chewing gum and mints for years upon years. Recent studies from the University of Washington have shown more positive benefits to the sugar compound than previously imagined. Many people have believed in the propoganda of fluoride for years in cavity prevention, even though studies have also shown it to weaken enamel. This new study shows that the use of pure xylitol can be just as, if not more effective in the prevention of dental caries.

Especially in low income, low educational areas xylitol may very well be a cheaper alternative to preventing tooth decay, which plagues these areas more so than others. Dr. Peter Milgrom has conducted a small test using xylitol syrup with babies which has shown a significant reduction in the number of babies developing cavities. A concentrated dose, multiple times daily is the key to success with this, and it may very well become a part of standard dental care and preventative dentistry.