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Study: A therapeutic approach to managing childhood tooth decay

May 21, 2021
U. of Penn. scientists have developed a 'gentler' strategy that could help wash away virulent biofilm while sparing oral tissues, helping vulnerable children avoid early childhood caries.

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Dental Medicine offers a strategy for managing oral health in some children susceptible to early childhood caries (ECC). Some current approaches, such as antimicrobials, can potentially damage healthy tissues or disrupt otherwise beneficial microflora.

Penn scientists had previously discovered that the dental plaque that promotes ECC is made of both a bacterial species, Streptococcus mutans, and a fungus, Candida albicans. The biofilm that results—often as a result of a carb-heavy diet and poor oral hygiene—becomes extremely virulent and difficult to remove from teeth.

The new treatment disrupts the biofilm with enzyme specific to the bonds that exist between microbes, in contrast to other treatments that can damage "good" microbes as well as the soft tissues in the oral cavity.

The implications of childhood caries are far-reaching, with the New York Times recently noting in an article about the potential broad effects of the pandemic on dentistry and oral health that children who have cavities tend to miss more school days and fare worse academically than those who don’t.

Access the full study, A gentler strategy for avoiding childhood dental decay, via Science Daily.