For a lot of people, the thought of candy automatically invokes thoughts of cavities, and with good reason. Loaded with sugar and sometimes acidic substances, candy is a common contributor to cavities—the holes that form in your teeth when they’re infected with harmful bacteria. Your mouth is an ecological wonderland, with over 600 different identifiable kinds of native bacteria. Keeping your smile healthy involves inhibiting harmful bacteria and allowing beneficial microbes to flourish. As Dr. Fondriest explains, candy helps disturb the balance and facilitate cavities by feeding bad bacteria. However, a new development from the Berlin-based firm, Organobalance GmbH, Germany, might completely change the role that candy plays in relation to your dental health.
The Old Story About Candy and Cavities
Though significant, candy isn’t the main reason why we develop cavities. Certain germs in your mouth, which form dental plaque when they accumulate, consume the sugar in candy and convert into acid. As the acid is spread across your teeth, it can dissolve their protective layer of tooth enamel and expose the tooth’s more vulnerable main structure, dentin. If you allow plaque to form and remain on your teeth, the excessive amount of bacteria can produce enough acid to overwhelm your enamel, speeding the process of erosion and quickening the onset of tooth decay—the disease that causes cavities to form as it eats away at your tooth.
Fighting Bacteria with Bacteria
The most common culprit in organic acid production is the bacteria, Mutans streptococci. In previous studies, researchers have noticed that a different strain of oral bacteria, Lactobacillus paracasei, has the propensity to combat the presence of M. streptococci, reducing the chances of cavity development. To gauge the effectiveness of L. paracasei against the acid-producing germ, the German research team, led by Christine Lang, created samples of sugar-free candy containing heat-killed samples of L. paracasei DSMZ16671. The researchers chose to use dead bacteria to avoid complications that might arise from introducing live microorganisms into test participants’ mouths.
The team divided 60 subjects into three groups; one group received candy containing 1mg L. paracasei, while another group received candy with 2mg of the manipulated bacteria. The third group served as the control and received candy that tasted similar, but did not have bacteria. The results showed that after eating only five pieces of candy over a period of one and a half days, subjects who ate the bacteria-laden candy showed considerably lower levels of cavity-causing germs. Participants who ate the 2mg candy exhibited reduced harmful bacteria after eating only one piece.
Conventional Methods of Protecting Your Teeth
Although cavity-fighting candy is a new innovation in the fight against bad bacteria, the idea of negating bad bacteria and the acid they produce has long been the basis of effective cavity prevention. Controlling your consumption of conventional candy and other sugar-rich foods is one way to avoid overfeeding bad bacteria. Also, brush your teeth at least twice every day and floss at least once to scrub away plaque, which protects bacteria from water, saliva, and other defenses. To proactively strengthen your enamel against acid attacks, Dr. Fondriest advises making sure that your diet contains plenty of calcium and phosphate, the main minerals that make up tooth enamel’s structure. For patients with especially weak enamel and an increased risk of cavity formation, Dr. Fondriest may recommend fluoride treatments. As a mineral, fluoride can bond to your tooth enamel’s surface and reinforce it in the face of repeated acid attacks.
Learn more about cavities
Aside from providing expert general and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Chicago and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.