Goodbye cavities? It could be possible thanks to Lactobacillus plantarum!

Dental cavities are the most common oral disease in the world and a major public health issue. Lactobacillus plantarum, a bacterium naturally present in the oral microbiota, could reduce its frequency, according to South Korean researchers.

 

A cavity that is not adequately treated can generate cardiac disorders and financial issues. Although good oral hygiene (brushing the teeth after meals, among other measures) restricts their development, preventing their onset is a challenge for the coming years. The bacterial route is one of the promising options.

A slow process that is well-understood

Cavities appear when dental plaque, composed mainly of proteins, food residues, bacteria and toxins (a mixture called a “biofilm”), takes long-term hold on the surface of the teeth. Streptococcus mutans is blamed for initiating the formation of this biofilm and is considered the main culprit behind cavities. These bacteria transform ingested carbohydrates and sugars into acids which attack the enamel and, if nothing is done to curb their advance, reach the dentin and cause a cavity. Conversely, other bacteria in the oral microbiota have a protective role. These include Lactobacillus plantarum which plays a unique role as it produces molecules which act effectively against the “bad” bacteria to prevent their adherence.

Lactobacillus plantarum, a front-line bacterium

Yet up until now, its mechanism of action had not really been explored. The authors were able to observe and to better understand how the bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum slowed the biofilm formation initiated by Streptococcus mutans on tooth enamel and dentin. They also showed that only Lactobacillus plantarum had this beneficial effect. This makes it a very attractive candidate as an anti-cavity agent! The researchers conclude that, before pursuing investigations in this direction, and let us hope, making a positive difference with regard to the prevention of cavities, we must make sure that Lactobacillus plantarum does not have detrimental effects on the other species which make up the bacterial biofilm of dental plaque.

 

Sources:

Ahn KB, Baik JE, Park O-J, Yun C-H, Han SH (2018). Lactobacillus plantarum lipoteichoic acid inhibits biofilm formation of Streptococcus mutans. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0192694.