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Bacteria’s Impact on Tooth Decay

Tooth rot is an important public health problem for children and adults. In fact, this is the most common childhood disease. In a new dental supplies study published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, an interdisciplinary team at the University of Minnesota found that bacteria that absorb and accumulate phosphate from saliva may play a role in tooth decay - which can lead to tooth decay.

This study shows that plaque causes dental decay by removing phosphate from the mouth and altering the chemistry of saliva. This is important because previous research focused on the role of bacteria in tooth decay by producing acid from sugars.

Knowing that low concentrations of soluble mineral ions such as phosphates in the oral cavity can accelerate tooth decay, researchers at the Department of Pediatric Dentistry and the Department of Earth Sciences at the School of Science and Engineering of the Dental School questioned that oral bacteria can themselves dramatically alter mineral ions in their local environment.

This is a recent issue raised by the study of the marine environment, showing that bacteria can form or dissolve bacteria by absorbing or releasing phosphorus from the cells, resulting in calcium phosphate minerals, similar to the mineral components of our teeth. These bacteria store phosphorus as a long-chain polymer called polyphosphate.

In the new study, researchers at the University of Minnesota said plaques contain large amounts of bacteria that absorb phosphate from around and store it as polyphosphates in cells, which may exacerbate tooth decay.

"To achieve this breakthrough, we need to bring together ideas and methods from different scientific disciplines, from oceanography to dentistry," said Jake Bailey, associate professor of Earth Sciences.

Researchers believe that this may help shape future dental equipment or reduce the treatment of tooth decay.

"Future work will need to be done to understand the factors controlling when and why these bacteria ingest phosphate, and how their presence affects overall oral health," said Robert Jones, associate professor of pediatric dentistry.

"I hope that our cooperation may lead to new methods and alternative ways to combat and manage oral diseases," said Ashley Breiland, lead author and researcher of the Earth Sciences Department.

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