Pills, Gum Might Someday Prevent Cavities, UF Researchers Say

Robert Burne, Ph.D., the associate dean for research and chair of the UF College of Dentistry’s department of oral biology, examines some of the research about the strand of bacteria that could lead to a way to prevent cavities. (Photo courtesy of University of Florida Health)
Robert Burne, associate dean for research and chair of the UF College of Dentistry’s department of oral biology, examines bacteria under a microscope. Burne is part of a team of four that discovered A12, a health bacteria that may someday fight cavities in the form of gum or pills. (Photo courtesy of University of Florida Health)

University of Florida researchers have identified a new strand of bacteria that could help reduce bad bacteria in the mouth and will hopefully lead to the prevention of cavities.

Robert Burne, chair and associate dean for research of the UF College of Dentistry’s department of oral biology, said his team of four started studying the amino acid arginine that led to the discovery of the strand A12, a healthy bacteria that fights other mouth bacteria.

“We have a patent on the technology related to identifying beneficial organisms with the goal of identifying a probiotic” for preventing cavities, he said.

From this research, the team figured out that A12 can be given to humans in different ways.

“It could be in a pill, or it could be in gum, or it could be in a lozenge or even a cotton swab,” Burne said.

The bacteria can improve children’s health by preventing cavities, as well as help adults with a history of tooth decay. What is not known, Burne said, is how often it would need to be applied.

Companies that would like to someday use the probiotic have reached out to the research team, but Burne said he thinks more understanding on the bacteria is needed first.

Dentist Yulien Cruz-Davis, of Cruz-Davis Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Gainesville, said the A12 treatment will be beneficial in preventing tooth decay.

Cruz-Davis said he educates his patients on the prevention of cavities, but once they’re present, the current treatment is to take out the tooth and place a filling.

“This discovery is huge for the dental profession because it will theoretically decrease cavities in the general population,” he wrote in an email.

In March, Burne’s team began receiving a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research for research on A12 and potentially other good bacteria like it, according to a news release from UF Health.

However, the research could be completed before the five-year mark, depending on how the experiments go.

“It’s really about understanding the mechanisms and the ecology of beneficial microorganisms,” Burne said. “A12 is one of those bacteria.”

About Alexandra Booth

Alexandra is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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