August 31, 2006

Fight tooth decay with chewing gum? Maybe

By Charnicia Huggins

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new chewing gum may soon be
available to help fight tooth decay.

The gum, along with a number of other products, is being
developed by the German chemical company BASF, in conjunction
with a microbial strain development and screening company
called OrganoBalance, according to a report in Chemistry &

The products will contain a new strain of lactobacillus,
the bacteria normally found in live yogurt and buttermilk. It
binds to the bacteria Streptococcus mutans, which causes tooth
decay. S. mutans promotes tooth decay by attaching itself to
the surface of the teeth while converting sugar in the mouth
into acid that breaks down the teeth's enamel.

The new lactobacillus strain, termed Lactobacillus
anti-caries, disrupts the normal attachment of S. mutans to the
teeth by adhering itself to the tooth decay-causing bacteria,
thereby allowing it to cluster together. In this way, the bad
bacteria can easily be rinsed out of the mouth.

So far, scientists have found that the gum can decrease the
amount of S. mutans in the mouth by half, the report indicates.

In addition to gum, the newly discovered bacteria is also
expected to be used in mouthwashes and toothpastes as well.

According to Dr. Andreas Reindl, Project Leader at BASF
Future Business, "the effectiveness has been demonstrated and
the first oral hygiene products containing probiotic
lactobacilli are scheduled to appear in 2007."

Stefan Marcinowski, executive director of research at BASF
did not confirm that the new L. anti-caries product to be
released sometime next year is indeed chewing gum, but he
stated in Chemistry & Industry that the gum "has been tested on
large numbers of people and demonstrated the ability to
significantly reduce bacterial levels."

A spokesperson from BASF, Christian Boehme, told Reuters
Health, "BASF Future Business and its partners focus on the
development of innovative mouth hygiene products such as
toothpaste and mouthwash, but the mode of action of probiotic
lactobacillus is transferable to other applications such as
chewing gum."

BASF also hopes to produce a deodorant based on L.
ala-odoris, another Lactobacillus strain that has been found to
inhibit the production of an acid that causes foul odors in the

Marcinowski acknowledges a need for more work before such a
product is launched, yet preliminary tests show that a
prototype of the L. ala-odoris-containing deodorant can reduce
odor formation in the armpit for as long as eight hours.