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Bacteria That Regulates Mouth PH May Pave Way For Anti-Cavity Pill

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A probiotic pill may soon change dental care forever. A type of oral bacteria that regulates pH could pave the way for new treatments that can prevent cavities through the use of probiotics.

Researchers from the University of Florida Health identified a bacteria that break down substances in the mouth and can control the function of other bad bacteria that can lead to cavities.

The bacteria, an unidentified type of Streptococcus called A12, decrease the amount of an acid that can dissolve teeth created by other bacteria. It also helps in metabolizing arginine, an amino acid that has been associated with the formation of tooth cavity.

To land to their findings, the researchers took samples of plaque and isolated more than 2,000 bacteria. They screened them to find the bacteria that metabolize arginine, identifying A12.

This particular bacterium can fight a harmful type of streptococcal bacteria known as Streptococcus mutans, which metabolizes sugar from food into lactic acid that can contribute to the acidic conditions in the mouth.

Bacteria introduced into the mouth clump together to form plaque and produce acids that can break down teeth. The oral pH should also be kept at bay and remain neutral, because when the amount of acid increases, the risk of developing cavities also increase.

A12 was seen to not only help neutralize acid by breaking down the amino acid arginine, but also kill Streptococcus mutans.

Published in the online journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, the study sheds light on the possibility of using the new bacteria that could help prevent cavities by developing an effective oral probiotic. The researchers compare the suggested treatment with popular probiotic supplements that stimulate the growth of "good" bacteria in the digestive tract.

"You would implant this probiotic in a healthy child or adult who might be at risk for developing cavities. However many times you have to do that - once in a lifetime or once a week, the idea is that you could prevent a decline in oral health by populating the patient with natural beneficial organisms," said Dr. Robert Burne, associate dean for research at the UF College of Dentistry's department of oral biology.

Photo: Rupert Taylor-Price | Flickr

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