Smile, Gators

DSC_01302Researchers Offer New Insight into Tooth Decay

UF researchers are exploring new ways to identify children at risk for tooth decay, which allow for time- and money-saving preventative care.

Marcelle M. Nascimento of the Department of Restorative Dental Sciences, and Robert A. Burne, of the Department of Oral Biology of the College of Dentistry, have been studying the growth of harmful bacteria in dental plaque, which is what causes tooth decay.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic infectious disease in children, affecting more than one-fourth of 2- to 5-year-old U.S. children and half of those aged 12 to 15. Despite efforts to prevent and treat tooth decay, including the use of fluoride, decay remains a health problem, affecting children’s nutrition, growth and development.

By studying 100 children, the researchers learned that children with tooth decay weren’t producing enough basic compounds in dental biofilms — specifically, ammonia  — to neutralize acids. The arginine deiminase system (ADS) is the primary pathway for making ammonia from the amino acid arginine in healthy bacteria, and ADS activity is markedly lower in children who are at risk for tooth decay.

The research suggests that monitoring children’s ADS activity is a cost-effective way to determine decay risk. The researchers are exploring ways to stimulate the ADS pathway to prevent decay. For more information about this study, you can visit the Journal of Dental Research, which recently published a paper about their research.

— Katherine Hahn (3JM)

* Originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Florida GATOR, the UF Alumni Association publication.