Your dentist will always tell you to brush your teeth. But why? Not brushing your teeth can cause tooth decay, an infectious disease caused by sugar-loving microbes that live in the mouth. A new study, however, might want to make you brush your teeth even more. Researchers have found that these tiny mouth microbes can combine to cause more damage than expected.
Damage from dental plaques causes cavities. Plaque coats the teeth in acid which breaks down the tooth’s hard enamel covering. Dental plaques are a type of biofilm and many types of microbes can form biofilms in the mouth. Young children who have severe tooth decay have a specific type of biofilm: the bacterium Streptococcus mutants and the fungus Candida Albicans. This fungus is a type of yeast that can cause infection in the human body.
To gather some more information, researchers collected 44 saliva and dental plaque samples from young children. Fourteen had healthy teeth and thirty had severe tooth decay. The scientists studied these samples to see what kind of germs lived in their mouths. The children with healthy teeth had bacteria, but no yeast, and children with tooth decay had both.
Scientists used real-time imaging to study how bacteria and yeast interacted with one another. When the yeast and bacteria combined, the yeast grew long legs called hyphae that lifted the clump of bacteria to another tooth. At the same time, the group of bacteria and yeast continued to grow and multiply. This allowed it to quickly cover a lot of area in a small amount of time. Once settled, the group of cells worked to erode the hard enamel covering. The researchers found that the cells were tough, and were not able to be moved by a strong blast of water. They are stickier, harder to kill, and more difficult to remove when united.
The team also found that eating sugary foods fed the bacteria. Frequent sugar is the main cause of tooth decay in children. Along with brushing your teeth, limiting your sweets consumption could prevent these superbugs.
The team only studied toddlers with tooth decay and hopes to branch out to other age groups. Next will be people with weakened immune systems due to other medical issues, as they are often affected by fungal infections as well. Using this data, they hope to find a treatment for people with severe tooth decay. These treatments could prevent superbugs from forming, and even prevent cavities in the future.