New research may put an end to tooth cavity woes as scientists are now developing a formulation that could prevent tooth decay in its tracks without necessarily killing oral bacteria. They are working on a new type of formulation that utilises cerium nanoparticle, which would be applied to the teeth at the dental office.

Russell Pesavento, Ph.D., and the primary investigator of the project stated that usually, people go to the dentist and receive oral treatments after cavities have already formed and tooth decay has eroded the teeth. Given this premise, they wanted to find a way to be able to prevent tooth decay from forming without harming the bacteria in the mouth.

Pesavento explained that the mouth has more than 700 species of bacteria. This would include both good and bad bacteria. The beneficial ones are those that play a huge role in food digestion, as well as keep other microbes at bay. The bad ones are the harmful streptococcal species, which include Streptococcus mutans.

The bad bacteria would stick to the teeth and multiply soon after cleaning. Add to that the sugar that gets into the mouth, gives the bacteria their energy source. Gradually, the microbes would create a tough film on the teeth, which cannot be removed easily by brushing. When bacteria metabolises sugar, its byproduct is acid, which dissolves the enamel of the tooth, leading to cavities.

Pesavento's team found a way to be able to thwart this process. They produced nanoparticles by dissolving sulfate salts in water. Next, they tested the cerium oxide nanoparticle solution with bacteria and found that their formulation reduced biofilm growth by 40 percent.

"The advantage of our treatment is that it looks to be less harmful to oral bacteria, in many cases not killing them," stated Pesavento in Medical Express. Their formulation prevented the microbes from sticking to the surface and forming biofilms.

While dentists and consumers may fight cavities by using products like stannous fluoride to inhibit plaque, or silver nitrate to prevent tooth decay, the researchers noted that continued application could lead to bacterial resistance and stained teeth. Pesavento underscored how they kill both good and bad bacteria.

Millions of women are victims of domestic violence in Brazil. A network of volunteer dentists are helping victims to smile again by reconstructing their teeth and in doing so, helping them to rebuild their lives. Photo: AFPTV / Carlos FABAL

The findings of Pesavento and the team will be presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting & Expo, which started Monday and will end on Thursday.