When we think of vaccines, we usually think about the prevention of diseases like polio, small pox and hepatitis. Have you ever thought about a vaccine for the common tooth cavity? Cavities are formed when bacteria that normally exist in your mouth use carbohydrate-containing foods, such as cookies, candy, sweetened cereal, fruit and soda to produce acid. This acid can penetrate the hard surface of your teeth to make those painful, damaging holes that make you visit the dentist.
Cavities have plagued mankind for ages, but now new hope exists for a vaccine to prevent them. British scientists recently published a study in Nature Medicine describing a new vaccine that they herald as a safe, effective and painless way to prevent dental cavities.
The vaccine was developed by a California-based company called Planet Biotechnology, and was tested by a team of researchers at Guy's Hospital Dental School in London. The vaccine, SIgA plantibodies, is a plant-derived substance that is painted on the teeth. Once on the teeth, the vaccine is said to produce antibodies to fight the cavity-causing bacteria called streptococcus mutans. The vaccine was tested on people in a four-month study. At the beginning of the study, researchers gave volunteers a mouth rinse to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth to zero. The volunteers then received the vaccine twice a week for three weeks, for a total of six applications. Other volunteers received a placebo vaccine. The results revealed that the group who received the vaccine had no evidence of the cavity causing-bacteria for up to four mouths, whereas bacteria was absent from the placebo group for only two months.
While these results are encouraging, I wouldn't advise throwing away the toothbrush just yet. I can think of a few potential problems with this study. The first problem is that the results lasted for only four months. What happens after that? Will the destructive bacteria come back to cause cavities again? What about all of the other bacteria in the mouth that can cause cavities? This study does not look at other bacteria (lactobacillus casei, acidophilus, or actinomyces naeslundii), which have also been shown to cause cavities. Finally, no other major clinical trial has confirmed the results of this study. Yet, despite these limitations, I am still optimistic that there may be an effective cavity vaccine available in the future. I think it is important to keep in mind that even if we had a viable cavity vaccine, there would still be a need for brushing teeth, flossing, regular dental exams and dental cleanings. These measures are important to help prevent cavities, dental gum disease, plaque buildup and other dental problems as well.
If you're interested in cavity treatment, call us at 1-866-970-0441. We'll put you in touch with a great dentist today!