A new study has suggested that oral care products containing a natural chemical that stops bacteria harming teeth could help prevent decay.
University Of Edinburgh researchers say that the plant natural product acts against harmful mouth bacteria and could improve oral health by helping to prevent the build-up of plaque.
The compound – known as trans-chalcone – is related to chemicals found in liquorice root and the study shows that it blocks the action of a key enzyme that allows the bacteria to thrive in oral cavities.
The bacteria – Streptococcus mutans – metabolise sugars from food and drink, which produces a mild acid and leads to the formation of plaque. Without good dental hygiene, the combination of plaque and mouth acid can lead to tooth decay.
Researchers found that blocking the activity of the enzyme prevents bacteria forming a protective biological layer – known as a biofilm – around themselves. Plaque is formed when bacteria attach themselves to teeth and construct biofilms. Preventing the assembly of these protective layers would help stop bacteria forming plaque, the teams says.
Oral care products that contain similar natural compounds could help people improve their dental hygiene, researchers say.
Team leader Dominic Campopiano said that they are expanding the study to include similar natural products and investigate if they can be incorporated into consumer products. This exciting discovery highlights the potential of this class of natural products in food and healthcare technologies.
The study is published in the journal Chemical Communications.