Sunday, April 17, 2011

Toothbrush Bacteria

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to only have to brush your teeth once a week or even once a month? Well, scientists have identified an enzyme in the human mouth that prevents the buildup of plaque which inevitably leads to tooth decay. The interesting part of this is that this enzyme is naturally produced in our mouths.

The human mouth is full of bacteria that are helpful to our well-being. These bacteria break down the food we eat, keep our mouths clean, and fight of certain infections. The main bacteria that cause plaque, Steptococcus mutans, produce acid from the sugars that we eat. This acid eventually wears down the main protective covering of our teeth known as enamel. Once the enamel is gone, there is no coming back. Conveniently, this is not the only species of bacteria that inhabit our mouths. The good kind, S. salivarius, inhibit the buildup of the bad kind of bacteria, S. mutans.

Through specific tests and careful observations, scientists were able to detect what exactly caused the “good” bacteria to inhibit the spread of the “bad” bacteria. What they found was that a certain enzyme known as, FruA, breaks down sugars thus preventing the buildup of plaque. With these findings, people may believe that they can eat all the candy they wants, but that is not the case. Sucrose, the sugar most commonly ingested by humans, was shown to prevent the “good” bacteria from inhibiting the bad bacteria.

Now, all these scientists have to do is implement this enzyme into toothpastes. The only problem they have is developing a way to keep the enzyme active on the shelf like toothpastes available now. They do believe that the recent information regarding these enzymes will lead to the development of better toothpaste. When they develop these new toothpastes, dentists might start going out of business because no one will need them again!


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