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Mouthwash Could Eliminate Cavities

Mouthwash Could Eliminate Cavities

Could a mouthwash eradicate cavities?

Everyone knows that excess sugar is bad for the teeth, and that’s because it encourages the growth of a cavity-causing bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. But a new study has shown that it may be possible to eradicate these S.mutans, from the mouth with a simple mouthwash.

Whilst it’s possible to kill most of the pesky bacteria in the mouth, the problem is that they just keep growing back, so researchers took a different approach; replacing them with less harmful bacteria. The study found that one application of its mouthwash killed the S.mutans, and harmless bacteria grew back in its place.

To test the theory the research team, funded by toothpaste manufacturer Colgate-Palmolive, designed a molecule called C16G2 that had been proven to kill S. mutans in Petri dishes.

This type of molecule is known as an antimicrobial peptide; it hunts out particular bacteria then attaches itself to that cell membrane where it causes the bacteria to self-destruct.

new mouthwash could eliminate cavities 550x274 Mouthwash Could Eliminate Cavities

Mouthwash Could Prevent Cavities

Researchers then made plastic retainers with enamel chips taken from cow’s teeth. Volunteers were asked to wear the retainers then swish their mouths with sugar water to activate the S.mutans, followed by the mouthwash containing the C16G2. The participants were asked to repeat this process over four days.

Samples taken daily showed that the number of S.mutans decreased dramatically, and cow enamel rinsed with mouthwash stayed hard, whereas the control group that didn’t receive the mouthwash became soft.

The actual amount of bacteria in the mouth remained the same, suggesting that health bacteria had replaced the cavity causing S.mutans.

Unfortunately the study is far too small to produce conclusive results, but it could pave the way for similar research that could one day lead to the elimination of cavities.


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  1. Veronique Greenwood: Hacking the Microbiome for Fun and Profit: Can Killing Just One Mouth Bacterium Stop Cavities? Discover Mag, 02/02/2012.

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