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Forsyth Team Gains New Insight On Childhood Dental Disease

February 28, 2011

New pathogen contributes to severe early childhood caries

Researchers at The Forsyth Institute have made a significant discovery about the nature of childhood dental disease. The scientific studies led by Anne Tanner, BDS, Ph.D., identified a new pathogen connected to severe early childhood caries (cavities). This bacterium, Scardovia wiggsiae, was present in the mouths of children with severe early childhood caries when other known pathogens such as Streptococcus mutans were not detected. This research may offer the potential to intervene and halt the progression of disease.

Early childhood caries, ECC, is the most common chronic infectious disease of childhood in the United States. Severe ECC can destroy primary teeth, cause painful abscesses and is the major reason for hospital visits for young children. This condition disproportionately affects disadvantaged socio-economic groups. This research, which will be published in the April issue of Journal of Clinical Microbiology, provides new insight on the microbiota of severe early childhood caries.

Dental caries is caused by an interaction between bacteria, host susceptibility and a carbohydrate diet that contains large amounts of sugar. Dr. Tanner published an updated evaluation of the diet associated with severe-ECC in collaboration with Dr. Carole Palmer at Tufts University in the Journal of Dental Research in 2010. The bacterial species Streptococcus mutans is widely recognized as the primary pathogen in early childhood caries. However, it is also present in people without disease and is not detected in all cases of childhood caries. This suggests that other species such as S. wiggsiae are also disease causing pathogens.

“In my work, I have seen the tremendous public health impact of severe early childhood caries,” said. Dr. Anne Tanner, Senior Member of Staff, Department of Molecular Genetics, The Forsyth Institute.

“Understanding the causes of severe dental decay in young children is the first step in identifying an effective cure.”

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