'Coating' on teeth could stop plaque: The American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston

A biological coating that stops bacteria getting a hold on teeth could help make plaque a thing of the past, scientists said yesterday.

Two microbiologists from a dental centre in Boston have been studying the habits of an organism they believe is found only in adult human mouths.

'These organisms, of all the places to inhabit on the planet, have selected the surfaces of human teeth as their main habitat,' Ronald Gibbons told the meeting.

Scientists have never spotted the bacterium, Actinomyces viscosus in the mouths of babies, have only found it in children if their first teeth have appeared, and say it vanishes if someone has all their teeth taken out. They believe the bacterium may be passed on to children by their mothers.

It is harmful because it builds up to form a dental plaque associated with gum disease and root decay. Dr Gibbons found that a class of proteins in human saliva are shaped so that one end of their structure sticks fast to the enamel coating of a tooth, while the other end attracts the bacteria. The bacteria are not attracted to the proteins while they float in the fluids in the mouth, but as soon as the protein sticks to a tooth, it changes shape, exposing a part of itself which the bacteria easily recognises. Dr Gibbons has found that if he cuts off the part of the protein the bacteria can spot, they have no way of gripping the protein, or the tooth.

He uses an enzyme to cut the protein at the right place, ensuring it is still able to perform useful functions in the mouth, but leaving the harmful bacteria nothing to hold on to. 'I can imagine a time when you could visit your dental hygienist, they would scrape off any film built up on your teeth and replace it with a coating of this new version of the protein.'

He said it might also be possible to include the protein in toothpaste.

Saliva is rich in calcium and phosphate, without which teeth would dissolve. The saliva's special proteins help prevent the calcium and phosphate from crystallising out.

Dr Gibbons said his replacement approach was particularly attractive because the modified protein would still perform this vital role. 'The coating would not greatly upset the natural ecology of the mouth, any more than brushing your teeth,' he said.

He explained that unlike using an antibiotic, the engineered protein would not kill off the bacteria, just make it impossible for them to stick to teeth. The scientists have tested their new tooth coating in the laboratory, but have yet to try it on people. Trials should go ahead in the next few months.

Dr Gibbons has patented the coating, and two pharmaceutical companies have already shown an interest in it.

Suggested Topics
News
Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
people
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
people
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game