The sugar craving bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, are key components in tooth decay. However, when distributed correctly, such as inside the human intestines, bacteria can play a role in achieving good, balanced health. With this information, we can potentially control S mutans when they reach harmful levels in the mouth.Your Lafayette dentist, Dr. Young, explains how a research study of marine sponges focuses on understanding how bacteria work.
Bacteria’s Role in Tooth Decay
Bacteria gather into densely populated colonies called biofilms. Scientists have been able to discover that bacteria use something called quorum sensing to communicate with each other, and collectively attach to hard surfaces, like teeth. Food debris, saliva, acid, and bacteria meld to create plaque. The sticky substance builds up on tooth surfaces when oral hygiene falls short. When plaque hardens, it becomes tartar. If tartar builds up on your teeth due to poor oral hygiene, and regular six month cleanings are ignored, tooth decay is likely. Progression of tooth decay can lead to an infection in the tooth pulp, which usually requires root canal therapy. In the worst cases, of tooth decay, patients will lose one or more teeth, altogether, and require restorations such as dental implants.
Using Bacteria for Good
Dr. Russell Hill, Director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Maryland, co-authored the study, focusing on bacterial communication. Researchers uncovered a signaling system within bacterial communities. The marine sponges exhibited a “healthy, well-distributed symbiotic population,” according to Dr. Hill. This was due to the fact that bacteria, using quorum sensing, collectively produced appendages called flagellum so that they could leave an area with too high of an existing bacterial population. In-depth understanding of this bacterial behavior might help us control plaque production in the future.
Contact Your Lafayette Dentist for a Checkup
For now, the harmful effects of bacteria on your teeth are best combatted with proper oral hygiene and bi-annual checkups with Dr. Young. Contact our 70508 dentist office by calling (337) 237-6453 to schedule an appointment. We are proud to serve families from Lafayette and surrounding areas.