Cavities are more widespread than you might think. According to a study conducted by the CDC between 2011-2012, approximately 91 percent of U.S. adults between the ages 20-64 have had a cavity at one point in their life. When thinking about your oral health, you might remember your mom’s sage advice: eat too much candy, and the sugar will rot your teeth. As it turns out, this is only half the story. What actually causes cavities is not the sugar, but a collection of bacteria found in our mouths, including one called Streptococcus mutans. These bacteria feed on sugar, reproduce, and create an acidic byproduct which erodes enamel. this creates cavities, which we treat with fillings.
When you brush your teeth, what you’re actually doing is eliminating the food source of these bacteria, as well as clearing some of them away from your teeth. In the future, however, professor Igor Sokolov and graduate student Ravi M. Gaikwad may have discovered an alternative solution.
Conducted out of Clarkson University Center for Advanced Materials Processing, researches adopted an ultrafine polishing technology used in the semiconductor industry composed of silica nanoparticles. When applied to the surface of human teeth, roughness left on a tooth became 100,000 times smaller than a grain of sand. What Sokolov and Gaikwad showed was that teeth polished in this way could become too slippery for bacteria such as streptococcus to attach to, which they theorized would protect enamel from the acidic byproduct left by bacteria.
While polishing teeth with silica particles has been done before, never with nanosized particles.Their research findings were published in the October Issue of the Journal of Dental Research.
We’re Not There Yet
Before you go and polish your teeth with ultrafine silica nanoparticles, you should hold off for more research. Not only have these results not been corroborated on human subjects, the practicality of this kind of procedure is questionable. The instrumentation, materials, and process required to polish teeth fine enough so that bacteria will not stick could not yet be completed at your local dentist office. That’s not to say it will never be, but there are still several steps to go, including human trials, FDA approval, and implementation, which could take a decade or more.
Fight Cavities Today
Although we don’t yet have the perfect solution for fighting cavities (maybe we never will), there are still plenty of steps you can take today. According to the American Dental Association, brushing and flossing twice a day can significantly reduce your chances of not only cavities, but gum disease as well. Also important is visiting your dentist at least twice a year for a check-up and cleaning.