Enzymes from seaweed microbes could be the answer to tooth decay, and may well be added into dental products in the not-too-distant future.
Scientists at Newcastle University in the UK have made the discovery following an unexpected detour from a study into whether the same microbes could be used to clean ships’ hulls.
Instead, it is now thought that the enzymes could be much more effective in killing off the bacteria associated with plaque built up between teeth.
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Findings seem to suggest that the seaweed components are able to strip away the bacteria that causes tooth decay; a significant step forward in tackling the frustrating dental issue.
Even the most relentless teeth-brushers often find that they struggle to tackle the problem entirely, with existing toothpastes only able to scrub off the initial plaque containing the bacteria. A biofilm is produced from this process, however, which sticks to the teeth, leading a continuous layer of plaque to contend with.
The enzymes, known as bacillus licheniformis, are able to get into the gaps between the teeth though, stripping away the harmful bacteria.
"Plaque on your teeth is made up of bacteria which join together to colonise an area in a bid to push out any potential competitors,” explained Dr Nick Jakubovics, a dental scientist at the University.
"Traditional toothpastes work by scrubbing off the plaque containing the bacteria - but that's not always effective - which is why people who religiously clean their teeth can still develop cavities.
"We found this enzyme can remove some of these undesirable bacteria from plaque."
More studies will take place to confirm the findings before any such product is released into the market, but it is hoped that eventually, the enzymes will possibly be incorporated into a paste or mouthwash.