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Seaweed 'can help stop tooth decay'


Thursday July 5th 2012

Microbes found on seaweed could provide an unexpected weapon in the fight against tooth decay, scientists have said.

They used an enzyme isolated from the marine bacterium Bacillus licheniformis which they were originally researching for cleaning ships' hulls.

Instead, the Newcastle University team will tell the Society for Applied Microbiology Summer Conference that it could have a range of medical applications, including teeth cleaning.

While toothpastes are effective, there are still hard-to-reach areas between teeth where the bacteria in plaque can erode enamel, causing cavities.

Dr Nicholas Jakubovics of Newcastle University's School of Dental Sciences believes better products offering more effective treatment can be made using the enzyme.

He said: "Plaque on your teeth is made up of bacteria which join together to colonise an area in a bid to push out any potential competitors.

"Traditional toothpastes work by scrubbing off the plaque containing the bacteria - but that's not always effective - which is why people who religiously clean their teeth can still develop cavities.

"Work in a test tube has shown that this enzyme can cut through the plaque or layer of bacteria and we want to harness this power into a paste, mouthwash or denture cleaning solution."

When threatened, bacteria shield themselves in a slimy protective barrier known as a biofilm.

Copyright Press Association 2012

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