Tooth decay is caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans that change the sugars left in the mouth after snacks and meals into acids. These acids attack the tooth enamel and lead to lesions or caries.
Clumps bacteria together
According to BASF, the new ingredient pro-t-action contains probiotic Lactobillus paracasei which binds to the caries-causing bacteria, grouping them together.
Once clumped together the bacteria are unable to lock onto the tooth surface and can then be flushed out of the oral cavity by swallowing or rinsing, claim the company.
“The natural saliva that would occur if you were chewing gum would be enough to remove the bacteria, which would then be swallowed,” explained Katerina Holz from OrganoBalance, BASF’s development partner.
In addition to chewing gum, other possible products could be mouthwash, toothpastes and even sugar free sweets, she added.
Pro-t-action needs approximately 10 seconds in the oral cavity to become active and is tasteless, odourless and pH neutral, claim BASF.
Reduced decay by up to 27 per cent
Laboratory tests conducted on the ingredient were presented this week at the International Association of Dental Research annual conference in Miami.
“The laboratory tests conducted at the University of Connecticut Health Centre demonstrated the ability of L. paracasei used in pro-t-action to significantly reduced the levels of decay by up to 27 per cent on average,” said Dr Tanzer from the centre.
“These findings, which are the logical consequence of the ability of selected L. paracasei to specifically clump Streptococcus mutans, present an intriguing new approach to controlling the miserable, prevalent, and costly disease, tooth decay.”
Although BASF are currently launching the ingredient internationally, Holz explained products containing pro-t-action will not hit the shelves immediately.
“We may see some products by 2010. BASF is currently launching the ingredient and obviously their customers will need some time for product development,” she said.
OrganoBalance is working on a number of projects with BASF concentrating on developing micro-organism strains with specific properties, and probiotics.