Bacteria and Cavities
Your mouth must remain at a relatively neutral pH in order to be healthy. Certain habits, such as not rinsing your mouth after drinking sugary or acidic drinks, or letting your mouth dry up of bacteria-killing saliva can lower the pH of your mouth, leaving it more acidic and increasing your risk for tooth erosion. Cavities form when a certain bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, feeds on food debris or glucose left over in your mouth and secretes lactic acid, damaging the enamel.
The Good, The Bad
Prior research has been done on two substances, urea and arginine, that break down into ammonia which can neutralize the pH in the mouth. There has also been a connection established that indicates that adults and children that are better at breaking down arginine have fewer cavities. The researchers at the University of Florida Health have identified a unique form of Streptococcus that they have dubbed A12. A12 not only efficiently metabolizes arginine, producing ammonia and neutralizing lactic acid, but also outright kills Streptococcus mutans in some cases.
Applications of A12
The ultimate hope is that A12 can be utilized in something like a pill that can help balance out the pH of the mouth and eliminate Streptococcus mutans. Unfortunately, this is still a ways off, but there are plenty of options currently available. The best course of action is to visit your dentist regularly, but you should also actively brush twice and floss once daily. Fluoridated toothpaste and water can help reintroduce any lost minerals back into your enamel.
While we wait for this new discovery to reach its practical application phase, regular dental visits and good oral hygiene remain your best option for protecting your teeth from decay and gum disease.