Scientists Invent Cavity-Fighting Candy
That sound you hear is children and parents all around the world rejoicing at the news that a scientific team in Germany has developed a candy that actually fights cavities instead of causing them. The candy, a sugar-free mint, prevents cavity-causing bacteria from attaching to teeth by using, ironically enough, other bacteria.
The healthy treat is the brainchild of Berlin-based Organobalance, a research and development company that specializes in using bacteria (probiotics) for innovative, healthy purposes. Its active ingredient is a type of lactic acid bacteria, Lactobacillus paracasei, that works by binding to an oral bacteria called Streptococci mutans, the most likely bacteria to cause cavities. Typically, after eating, the Streptococci mutans attaches to teeth and releases an acid that dissolves tooth enamel, creating cavities, but when the Lactobacillus paracasei in the candy binds with the Streptococci, it stops it from clinging to the enamel, reducing the risk of cavities.
In laboratory tests, Lactobacillus paracasei was found to reduce the number of cavities in rats, and when the tests were expanded to 60 human subjects, around 75% of them had “significantly lower levels” of Streptococci in their saliva than they had the previous day.
However, while it’s a promising start, reducing the “bad” bacteria in saliva isn’t the same as reducing it in the plaque on teeth, where the damage is really done. And accomplishing this task is no easy feat. For instance, it had long been thought that xylitol, a chemical added to sugarless gum and candy, also reduced cavities by killing Streptococci, but a recent study found it had no significant impact on the development of cavities.
Organobalance previously developed a cavity-fighting chewing gum containing the Lactobacillus paracasei bacteria, as well as a toothpaste and even a deodorant that blocked odor-causing bacteria on the body. None of these products have reached the shelves of the local drug store, however, so there’s little doubt you’ll have to wait quite a while for any anti-cavity candy as well.
(Sources: The Financial Express, Organobalance, NPR)