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Dental researchers are constantly fighting the good fight to halt the nefarious streptococcus mutans. Not only because we all want to see fewer cavities– but because the oral inflammation caused by S mutans has been linked with serious systemic health problems like cardiovascular disease, alzheimer’s, prostate disease, and more.

Now scientists have a found a potential new S mutans cryptonite!

Introducing trans-chalcone

Trans-chalcone is a relative of other chemicals that have been identified in licorice root. Created in the lab, it has been shown to halt biofilm production in bacteria in test-tubes by blocking a key bacterial enzyme responsible for biofilm creation.

Scientists are currently expanding the study outside the realm of test tubes hope to see trans-chalcone continue to decimate bacterial biofilms in lab animals. If it succeeds, the researchers are excited about the possibility of incorporating the substance into consumer products. As a plant derivative, trans-chalcone has options for food-based cavity prevention; for instance, as an additive to drinks.

Beating biofilm

What is the significance, you may ask, of trans-chalcone disrupting bacterial biofilm production? What is a biofilm anyway? Great questions.

Biofilms are sticky extracellular matrixes formed by bacteria. In your mouth, they like to settle in large numbers– especially between your teeth or along the gum line– and when they do, the entire group (millions and millions of them) secretes a substance that protects them and helps them stick to tooth surfaces.

Inside the biofilm, bacteria are safe to eat the sugars they find, and when they do, they secrete a mild acid which eventually erodes your dental enamel, forming a cavity.

Without this protective substance, bacteria can’t stick to your teeth– they can’t settle down long enough to get comfortable and start eroding your enamel. Instead they get washed away by saliva or water. Beating biofilm is a big step in besting bacteria.

What’s even better? Prevention

Don’t rely on studies like this one to make their potential impact any time soon. Scientific research takes years and years to determine the efficacy and safety necessary to meet consumer standards. However, in the meantime, we have the best tool available on our side: prevention.

Brushing teeth twice daily for at least two minutes, and flossing at least once a day is the regular oral care recommended by the ADA. Additionally, the ADA considers dental check-ups every six months to be the gold standard in preventative dental medicine. West Linn dentists, Drs. Dugger and his helpful staff believe that with stringent oral care, biofilms don’t have a chance.

Make your next appointment with our West Linn dentists today!

Photo Credit: ND Strupler via Compfight cc

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