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Soon, probiotic pills to keep cavities at bay

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Washington: What if fighting cavities could be as easy as taking a pill? A team of researchers has identified a new strain of bacteria in the mouth that may keep bad bacteria in check, paving way for new tooth decay treatment using probiotics.

The University of Florida Health 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.

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 researcher Robert Burne.

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

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.

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,” Marcelle 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.”

The study appears in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. (ANI)

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