Most people understand that if we don’t take proper care of our teeth by brushing and flossing every day and visiting our dentist on a regular basis, cavities will likely be the result. Unfortunately, for some people brushing, flossing, and routine dental visits are still not enough to prevent cavities from forming. It seems that some of us are just more cavity-prone than others. Recently, researchers studied why some people are more likely to develop cavities than others. Their conclusion was intriguing. They found that it may be possible sometime in the future to even out the genetic playing field with the help of probiotics.
In a study recently published in Applied Environment Microbiology, researchers at the University of Florida discovered a new strain of probiotic that is particularly useful for helping to prevent cavities. One of the keys is to ensure that the environment inside the mouth has a neutral PH – in other words, that it does not become too acidic. Researchers already knew that two compounds present inside the mouth (urea and arginine) break down into ammonia, and that ammonia helps to neutralize acid. This new study shows that a good type of bacteria referred to as A12 interferes with and may destroy Streptococcus mutans, which is a negative strain that contributes to acidic conditions inside the mouth. Researchers concluded that when the strains were grown together, S. mutans did not grow well and also did not make dental plaque.
The study led experts to pose interesting questions and form some concepts that could eventually revolutionize dental care. They speculated that it might be possible for a probiotic to be created from beneficial bacteria that grow naturally in people who were more easily able to break down arginine. If this type of probiotic were developed, it might be possible to implant it into a person who is more likely to develop cavities. If this idea is pursued, it could mean that cavity-prone individuals could reap huge oral health benefits from a natural organism.
While there is still much research left to do, this could be promising for those people who seem to be more cavity-prone than others. But whether or not a probiotic will actually be used in this fashion in the future, there’s one thing we can say for certain: we will all still need to practice good oral hygiene regimens at home and visit our dentist for professional exams and cleanings!
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