It’s common knowledge that many of our pharmaceuticals are sourced from plant materials; aspirin, for example, comes from salicylic acid, located in the bark of willow trees. And many plants, like the garlic bulb, are known for antibacterial properties as well as their nutritional value. Throughout human history, we owe a lot to plants.
But did you know that plant-based discoveries are still in the works? New compounds that can aid health and the healthcare sector are constantly being explored by scientists. Now there’s a new potential candidate that just may impact dental health: trans-chalcone.
What’s in a name?
Don’t be put off by the intimidating chemical-sounding name, trans-chalcone (in fact, don’t be put off by the term chemical: water itself is a chemical compound and it makes up roughly 75% of our bodies). Trans-chalcone is related to similar chemicals found in licorice root, and researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe that it may inhibit bacteria’s ability to get a hold of our teeth.
To appreciate their discovery, it’s important to first understand exactly how bacteria do their dirty work. Bacteria– particularly streptococcus mutans, on whom the study was conducted– create cavities by creating plaques on the surface of our dental enamel.
To make these miniscule cities, bacteria must first congregate in large (relatively speaking) clumps, which they are easily able to do if we are not practicing strict oral hygiene. Once assembled, bacteria release a special extracellular compound, creating a biofilm. This biofilm helps bacteria adhere to the tooth surface, and it protects them against saliva and or competing microbes that may get in the way of their growing metropolis.
Large groups of bacteria protected by biofilm are called plaques. The bacteria inside the plaque eat sugars in our mouths and metabolize them into acids, which harm the dental enamel that the bacteria are sitting on– and form cavities.
OK, this is not a cure (prevention in the form of brushing and flossing is!)– but it is an exciting discovery. The scientists believe that trans-chalcone can actually prevent plaque from forming.
In their research, trans-chalcone was found to block the bacterial enzyme responsible for forming biofilm in the first place. Without their biofilm security blanket, bacteria aren’t able to eat sugars in within the safe womb of their bacterial plaque– they aren’t even able to stick to our teeth.
In short, if this research is shown to be accurate, trans-chalcone could stop s mutans in its tracks– making a huge impact on the rate of dental caries.
Research on compounds like tran-chalcone can be extremely beneficial for people without access to dental health services or for populations with difficulty performing the self-care tasks of brushing and flossing. However, as we have (subtly) mentioned, the real prevention for cavities is an unwavering regimen of oral hygiene.
A critical part of your dental health is regular visits to the best dentist Milwaukie Oregon has to offer, so schedule your next appointment today, and let us regale you with more tales of dental science!