Image Dental Blog


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Harvard-MIT Study Reveals The Best Way to Fight Tooth Decay

A recent study performed by researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published great news on saliva’s role in tooth decay prevention.

The full story can be read here, but we’ll sum it up in layman terms, as the jargon used is very technical and confusing to the average reader.

study reveals saliva prevents tooth decayIn a basic sense, cavities are formed when certain bacteria, such as S. mutans, attach themselves to the tooth’s enamel forming what is known as biofilm. This sticky layer slowly eats away at our enamel, unless we take action to remove it such as daily brushing and routine trips to the dentist.

The researchers at Harvard and M.I.T. have found that the mucus contained within our saliva “keeps harmful bacteria in a liquid medium, which in turn reduces their ability to form biofilms on teeth.” 

In short, our own saliva prolongs the development of biofilm, or sticky plaque, which adds to our body’s defense against tooth decay.

So what should I do?

The news can be interpreted in different ways but first and foremost it suggests that while fluoride treatments and sealants may offer prevention benefits, it’s worth looking into our own body’s natural defense system against tooth decay - saliva production.

It can be as simple as drinking more water every day to make sure our body is producing a healthy rate of saliva. When we are dehydrated, our body does not produce as much saliva – which we’ve now learned is a critical natural defense mechanism for keeping tooth decay at bay.

Of course, water alone is not enough. Plaque must be addressed every single day (and night). We do this by brushing and flossing, as well as visiting your dentist for even deeper cleans that really knock plaque off your teeth. 

It all comes down to maintaining control over plaque. Look at the entire situation as a never-ending war between plaque and us, but realize that it's a battle that can be easily won with persistence and a developed routine. 

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