Here are questions and answers from Gainesville's WUFT to Dr. Cruz-Davis concerning a new breakthrough in dental medicine:  a probiotic that could greatly reduce tooth decay

Q:  How will this research benefit your daily work?

A:  This research is a discovery of a new strand of bacteria that will act as a probiotic in the mouth, neutralizing acids and competing or killing acid-producing bacteria.  This discovery is huge for the dental profession, because it will theoretically decrease cavities in the general population. It will hopefully be a breakthrough in oral health akin to the reduction of dental decay we saw in the 1950’s with the introduction of fluoride in the drinking water, but a more organic and self-directed method.

Q:  Do you think this pill or gum could be helpful?

A:  There are three main factors that influence tooth decay:   1) The susceptible host (this includes our teeth and the acid producing bacteria that live in our mouth).  2) Diet rich in carbohydrates (sugars)  3. The length of time the acid produced by the breakdown of sugars remains in contact with the teeth.

This probiotic (either in pill or gum form) could be extremely beneficial as it will introduce a bacteria that competes with the acid-producing bacteria, neutralizing the acid in the mouth and interrupting the mechanism of cavity formation and thus preventing tooth decay.

Q:  How do you treat cavities now? For children? For adults?

A:  There are preventive and action-based methods to treat cavities. I treat cavities in my practice first by educating patients of all ages.  We provide oral health instruction as well as nutrition counseling.  Application of fluoride varnish and sealants are also preventive treatments.  However once a cavitated lesion (cavity) is present, the treatment is to excavate the decayed tooth structure and place a filling. The elderly population is at increased risk for cavities because older people tend to take more medications, many of which have dry mouth as a side effect.  Saliva is extremely important to clean our teeth and to buffer the acid that contributes to cavity formation. Fluoride application (rinses, varnishes, toothpaste), oral moisturizer rinses, and nutritional counseling are preventative treatment options for seniors and others.

If the public has other dental questions, they can submit them to my web column, Ask the Dentist,

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