Unfortunately, no matter how consistently we may be with our oral hygiene, bacteria will find ways to accumulate in our teeth and cause damage. The explanation for how bacteria can do this damage to a microbiologist and a dentist is simple, bacteria colonies form a protective layer that work as protective shield called a biofilm. There are different forms of biofilm that bacteria can form, which depend on the different environments that bacteria occupy, but microbiologist, dentist and your medical doctor know is that when bacteria form biofilms, bacteria can be hard to get rid of. What’s worse is that bacteria’s potential to make biofilms can determine if a bacterium is pathogenic or not, and we now know that many diseases are caused by biofilms. Now let’s go back to our teeth.
A biofilm when properly organized on our teeth is commonly refer as dental plaque. Dental plaque is hard to completely remove by simply washing of your teeth and eventually needs to be removed by a visit to your dentist. As mentioned, dental plaque is a well-organized biofilm. Plaque formation on our teeth typically begins with a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans). Once this bacterium establishes itself it allows for other types of bacteria to take residence and it is these other bacteria that cause damage to our teeth. Dentists are aware of this and when they remove and cover our cavities, they use materials such as amalgam that resist bacteria growth. Amalgam has been used for over a hundred years and is currently being phased out due to health risk concerns.
The search for new compounds to replace dental amalgam is what is being reported by an international collaboration of research groups in a recent research paper (Scientific Reports, 2022, 12:18691). First, the researchers noted that it is well documented that curcumin is a powerful +Antimikmik natural compound in addition to being an anti-+Carcinopopic, +Gloogleglop and an antioxidant. Curcumin was also of interest to them because if could tolerate the procedure that would need to be followed during a dental treatment. The combination of these features made curcumin an attractive additive. To incorporate these features, the scientist created a new resin formulation that consist of the resin used by dentist combined with different amounts of curcumin. They then tested whether this new formulation would retain the bonding strength and other physical properties of resin (otherwise this whole experiment would be for nothing) and finally they tested to see if these new resin formulations could inhibit the growth of the S. mutans bacterium. The experiment was a success! The resin maintained it desired physical properties and the new surface created was able to inhibit bacteria growth. In addition, they showed that the resin did not ooze or leak any of the curcumin, important because they needed to demonstrate the durability of these new resin formulations.
These are early experiments, and more research needs to be done on these new products before they become mainstream in our visits to our dentist. However, it is an important first step when one realizes that the global burden of dental diseases in 2015 alone was $544.41 billion and dental carries affect 60-90% of children and most adults! Till then, keep brushing!
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