Scientists in the U.S. have recently discovered a new strain of bacteria called A12 that live in the mouth. They believe that these bacteria may help in keeping the bad ones under control, and might become available as oral supplement in the future.
Ensuring good oral hygiene takes more than brushing and using antibacterial mouthwash or other similar products. Experts even believe that using such products can harm the good bacteria in the mouth.
Additionally, to maintain good dental health and prevent cavities, the environment inside the mouth must have a neutral pH balance. Acidic mouth is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
"At that point, bacteria on the teeth make acid and acid dissolves the teeth. It's straightforward chemistry," said oral biologist Robert Burne from the University of Florida who is part of the research. "We got interested in what activities keep the pH elevated."
There are two main compounds that can help in neutralizing acid in the mouth. One is urea that is being secreted in the mouth itself, and the other is the amino acid called arginine.
Burne's team has found in their previous research that arginine is easily broken in the mouths of people with few or no cavities at all. They suggested that there must be the presence of good bacteria that are keeping their mouths at the ideal pH level. And their recent findings finally had finally identified this strain of Streptococcus bacteria — the aforementioned A12.
They are now working on how to package A12 for people to ingest. If successful, this could prevent cavities even before they begin.
"You would implant this probiotic in a healthy child or adult who might be at risk for developing cavities. However many times you have to do that – once in a lifetime or once a week, the idea is that you could prevent a decline in oral health by populating the patient with natural beneficial organisms," Burne explained.
The findings are published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.