Pattaya Daily News

12 July 2010 :: 15:07:28 pm 30565

Oral Cavities and Streptococcus

We have all had cavities at some stage of our lives, but how many of us stop to think how they developed. We clean our teeth twice, sometimes three times a day, but still these cavities will keep popping up.
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Streptococcus mutans is the culprit. It is a bacteria that live in the human oral cavity producing plaque and acids that break down the tooth enamel causing tooth decay. The human mouth is host to a great number of plaques that develop on the surface of our teeth with S. mutans making up thirty to sixty per cent of the total number of bacteria living on the teeth, tongue, cheeks and in the saliva, along with several species of fungi and protozoa.

Protozoa can be parasites or predators and are a single celled animal. Plankton is a protozoa that lives in wet environments and serve as food for marine animals such as whales. It can also be found in decaying matter on land and in soil where the condition is continuously moist.

S. mutans thrives on sugars in the mouth which they consume while excreting lactic acid that is responsible for the tooth decay. It metabolizes sucrose producing polysaccharides (simple sugars) which assists in forming plaque, leading to the breakdown of the tooth enamel resulting in tooth decay.

Tooth decay is the most prevalent diseases of the human race and represents major problems, with over two billion dollars spent each year on treatment in the US alone.

Once decay is spotted, it is essential to pay a visit to the dentist to have treatment. The bigger the hole, the more expensive it is to repair and the longer it is left before treatment, the bigger the hole becomes.  Not only does the cavity become larger if left untreated, it will become painful as the hole gets deeper. Pain can be felt in the tooth, but left untreated, will eventually spread around the jaw as infection takes hold and can become excruciating.

A company based in Florida called Oragenics may have found a solution to rid our mouths of these acid excreting organisms which could make cavities ancient history, but one problem solved can lead to another development.

Oragenics have used DNA technology called ‘Replacement Therapy’ to produce a new variety of S. mutans that does not excrete lactic acid, but excretes small amounts of Mutacin 1140 which will kill of the other strains of S. mutans giving the new bacteria a reign over the existing organism eventually wiping them out and leaving the new bacteria in its place.

If and when this new treatment is approved, it should mean one visit to the dentist where he or she would swab the patient’s teeth with the modified bacteria, leaving it for five minute while it begins its work.  The entire population of S. mutans would be completely extinguished leaving the new organism to theoretically reside in its place.

There is little doubt that eliminating the cause of cavities would improve our quality of life, but in a complex situation such as our environment, it is impossible to predict the future when a bit of the ecosystem is replaced.  Perhaps further research will provide the answers.

Sarah Goldman

Photo : Internet   Category : Health

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