A new study published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Biology showed that saliva is an incredible natural weapon in the fight against cavities and tooth decay. The research was done at MIT and Harvard and found that some components of saliva fight the bacteria that cause cavities called Streptococcus mutans (commonly known as S. mutans). Call Dr. Judy’s office today to schedule a checkup to make sure your mouth is cavity-free.
What the study showed about bacteria in your mouth
S. mutans utilizes sugars we eat or drink and build up plaque that, over time, erodes your teeth. Here’s how. In short, an evil little film of bacteria forms on your teeth that then produces acids that dissolve enamel and eat holes in your teeth – these holes are cavities. The study found that salivary mucins act like a natural defense against S. mutans that may be more effective than fluoride.
Previously, it was thought that mucins only served to keep saliva slippery, but it seems that they have much more important properties. Rather than directly attacking the cavity-causing bacteria, the mucins protect your teeth by preventing the bacteria from attaching to teeth by essentially encasing it in a layer of mouth goo.
Rethinking how saliva helps your teeth
The study then went on to try and figure out how to bolster this excellent natural anti-cavity defense. First, they found that some illnesses (including asthma, cystic fibrosis and ulcerative colitis) prevent the growth of the cavity fighting mucus components. Then, they theorized that the best-case scenario is to ensure that we aren’t killing off these helpful parts of our saliva.
The study’s lead investigator, MIT’s Katharina Ribbeck, said the study is a “paradigm shift… towards the understanding that mucus is a sophisticated bioactive material with powerful abilities to manipulate microbial behavior.” Ribbeck plans to next search for ways to replenish mucins to improve dental health.
Fighting cavities every day
For now, there are some things you can do to improve your oral health and prevent cavities and gum disease:
Avoid smoking – Numerous studies have shown that smoking is a sure pathway to dental deterioration including yellowing teeth, cavities, gum disease and tooth loss.
If you’ve got tooth pain, can see build-up of plaque on your teeth, have stained teeth or can see little holes in your teeth, you are overdue for a dental checkup. Call now to make an appointment to see Dr Judy for a check up and tooth cleaning. Typically, twice yearly cleanings are recommended to keep your mouth in optimal health, prevent gum disease and keep your smile shining brightly.