FRIDAY, March 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A new discovery might one day lead to an anti-cavity pill, researchers report.
The University of Florida scientists identified a strain of bacteria in the mouth that may keep cavity-causing bacteria in check.
The investigators said it might be possible to use this beneficial bacteria to develop a supplement taken by mouth that prevents cavities.
A healthy mouth requires a relatively neutral chemical environment, the researchers explained. When the environment in the mouth becomes too acidic, it can lead to cavities and other dental problems, study lead author Robert Burne said in a university news release.
"At that point, bacteria on the teeth make acid, and acid dissolves the teeth. It's straightforward chemistry," said Burne, chair of the department of oral biology at the University of Florida College of Dentistry. "We got interested in what activities keep the pH elevated."
The seemingly beneficial bacteria the researchers discovered is a strain of streptococcus called A12, according to the study published recently in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
The researchers also mapped out the entire genetic code of A12, and said they hope to use it as a tool to screen people to see who is at higher risk of developing cavities.
According to study co-author Marcelle Nascimento, "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." Nascimento is an associate professor in the College of Dentistry's department of restorative dental sciences.
The research team recently received a five-year, $3 million grant from the U.S. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to study A12 and related bacteria in the mouth.
The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion explains how to take care of your teeth and gums.