Published Date: 03 April 2009
By Margaret Neighbour
DENTAL scientists yesterday claimed to have discovered how to prevent the bacteria that cause tooth decay from forming in the mouth.
BASF, the world's largest chemical manufacturer, said the formula could be introduced into toothpaste, mouthwash and even sweets by next year.
Using a micro-organism related to those used in yogurt cultures, the German-based company has engineered a process that clusters harmful bacteria in the mouth before they can bind with sugar and form plaque.
The organism and plaque-causing bacteria are then swallowed as part of the mouth's natural cleaning process.
The bacteria, known by the scientific name Streptococcus mutans, is safe to swallow because it is naturally found in the mouth.
"There is a complex dynamic of bacteria that grow on the teeth," said Jason Tanzer, of the University of Connecticut.
"They can stick to those surfaces and form a film or they can be swallowed."
Scientists fed two groups of rats a diet high in sugar, but put BASF's product in only one group's food.
Tooth decay in the group of rats using the product was far less pronounced than in the group not using the product.