Being able to fight tooth decay by simply eating (sugarless) mints is a dream project now being worked on by German microbiologists seeking to develop a new probiotic candy that removes cavity causing plaque as you eat.
“Our mouths are microbial jungles,” stated researcher Christine Lang at Berlin- based Organobalance. “In fact the human tooth cavity is home to more than 600 species of bacteria, although most are safe.”
At present, her team is concentrating on infusing mints with the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei found in yogurt and kefir, which is known to “neutralize” Streptococcus mutans that convert leftover sugars into acids that erode tooth enamel.
Lang settled on Lactobacillus paracasei after screening more than 800 different types of bacteria to find one that would bind to the plaque, but wouldn’t kill other microbes found in the mouth.
“In theory this should help fight cavities,” she continued while admitting that the “reduction of harmful bacterial is quite small at this point in development. Still, we are very optimistic about its potential.”
A similar (but unconnected) study in now going on at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where researchers are looking to develop a flouride toothpaste supplemented with L. paracasei.
In addition, it should be noted that Lang’s work is just the latest in a long list of studies and, in many ways is similar to the development of a cavity-fighting mint filled with an ingredient called Cavistat back in 2008 by oral biologist Israel Kleinberg, D.D.S., Ph.D., Stony Brook University in New York.
Dr. Kleinberg, one of the pioneers in this field noted (at the time) that “ 40 years of research and more than $1 billion has been spent trying to figure out what saliva has that fights tooth decay.”
“Cavistat is made up of two main components that protect the teeth. First, the amino acid arginine metabolizes certain bacteria, which neutralizes the acid generated by sugars. This raises the pH to help prevent damage to teeth,” he explained. “It also brings in other chemical compounds that protect against the dissolving of the minerals of the teeth.”