Can a Mouthwash Solve Health Problems Associated With Streptococcus mutans?

Jessica Udzinski (1 PM Micro) found this article that reinforces the importance of brushing your teeth.

One dental researcher, Wenyuan Shi, from the University of Los Angeles believes he is en route to developing a mouthwash to permanently eliminate the bacteria that causes cavities, Streptococcus mutans.  In order to begin this process, he first began to understand how Streptococcus mutans play a role in biofilms.  A biofilm, as we all know, is a compound congregation of microorganisms growing on a hard substrate, in this case teeth.  Once the bacteria are easily latched onto the biofilms of the teeth, they begin to break down food debris to make acid which is what potentially eats away at the enamel and eventually causes cavities.

Shi developed a technology called STAMPS (Specifically-Targeted Antimicrobial Peptides) that aim for only Streptococcus mutans without harming the normal microbiota in the mouth.  The difference in this from other antibiotics out there is it does not harm the good bacteria along with the bad.  Another difference is after the normal microbiota are exposed to Shi’s findings, they develop an immunity defense to keep the bad bacteria from forming in the future.

In the study, Shi had twelve participants use the developed mouthwash once over a period of four days and found that had already helped lower the levels of Streptococcus mutans along with lowered levels of demineralization and lactic acid production.

Another benefit from the mouthwash, besides lowering the chance of cavities, would be to potentially eliminate the chances of having the bacteria travel to the heart.  Streptococcus mutans is able to travel from the mouth to the heart when there is a cut in the mouth, allowing the bacteria into the bloodstream.  This is most likely to occur during thorough dental work on someone who has a significant amount of plaque buildup.  When the bacteria reaches the heart is can cause endocarditis, which has proven to be fatal to some people.  Typically people with pre-existing heart conditions and artificial heart valves are more at risk, but any healthy person is able to develop endocarditis as well.

Stillbirths and miscarriages have also been linked to Streptococcus mutans after getting into the bloodstream from a cut in the mouth.  The bacteria settle onto the placenta from the bloodstream and make its way through the placenta.

Not only would the overall oral hygiene improve, but serious health risks like endocarditis, miscarriages, and still births could be significantly decreased just by killing one bacteria, Streptococcus mutans.

The American Dental Association has cautioned companies to not label anything as a preventative for gum disease etc at the beginning of an experiment when not much evidence is available.  However, this study seems significant enough to believe it can, even its early stage.   In order to determine just how long the mouthwash would need to be used for will require a more lengthy study to observe the long-term effects.  Shi received a grant to further his research and the continuance of this study is expected to begin in 2012.

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on December 9, 2011, in Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Can a Mouthwash Solve Health Problems Associated With Streptococcus mutans?.

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