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Plant-Based Plaque Beater

Your dentist in Portland recently came across a fascinating article about the potential for a plant compound called trans-chalcone to make a big impact on oral health!

Before its name intimidates you, know this: this compound is very similar to a compound found in licorice root. If you like licorice, this might even sound appealing now! So, what exactly does trans-chalcone offer the world of dental health?

It has anti-microbial capabilities.

Bacteria and your mouth

To understand how trans-chalcone works, it’s important to first understand how bacteria create cavities in the first place. We all know that eating sugar can lead to cavities, particularly when it’s an excessive amount of sugar (like in soda) and the consumer of sugar does not follow up his or her meal with brushing. Sugar leads to cavities– but how?

The how is bacteria. These tiny trouble-makers (well actually there are plenty of good bacterial strains, so they don’t all deserve the bad rap!) gobble up the sugars left in your mouth when you don’t floss or brush frequently enough. They then metabolize the sugars, releasing a metabolic byproduct as they do: acid.

Acid and oral health do not mix. Your mouth wants to have a neutral or slightly alkaline pH because dental enamel– while harder than bone– is extremely sensitive to acidic pH. When the bacteria release acid onto your dental enamel the enamel slowly erodes until you get a cavity.

Finally, in order for all this to happen bacteria need a home-base from which to eat sugars and release acid. They do this by creating plaques that allow them to hold on to the slippery tooth surface. Once attached, they are free to do their dirty work. This is where trans-chalcone comes in.

What scientists found

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that trans-chalcone’s power is in its ability to prevent bacteria from forming its plaques on our teeth. When they aren’t able to create plaques, bacteria are far more susceptible to getting washed away by saliva or just water, and aren’t able to sit around slowly eating away at your tooth enamel.

The scientists believe that trans-chalcone disables a bacterial enzyme responsible for creating biofilm, the extracellular matrix that provides the foundation for plaque formation. Without this unifying goo, bacteria can’t stick together– and they can’t stick to your teeth.

Fascinating, but for now…

Scientific progress is amazing, but the process can be slow. These findings will need to be replicated before experts will even begin testing the compound for human safety and all the other machinery leading up to a product becoming available to the public. In terms of oral health, we don’t have time to wait around for this.

Start your own antibacterial campaign through preventative dental care. Brush twice daily for at least two minutes at a time, floss at least once, and stay up-to-date with appointments with your dentist in downtown Portland.

Schedule your next appointment now!

Photo Credit: Clay Larsen via Compfight cc

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