Natural Plant Chemicals Could Help Fight Tooth Decay



Oral care products containing a natural plant chemical that stops bacteria harming teeth could help prevent decay, a study suggests. The natural compound known as trans-chalcone is related to chemicals found in licorice root. The study shows that it blocks the action of a key enzyme that allows the Streptococcus mutans to thrive in oral cavities. Researchers found that blocking the activity of the enzyme prevents the bacteria from forming a protective biofilm around themselves. Plaque is formed when bacteria attach themselves to teeth and construct biofilms. Preventing the assembly of these protective layers would help stop bacteria forming plaque. Oral care products that contain similar natural compounds could help people improve their dental hygiene, researchers say.

The study, led by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, is the first to show how trans-chalcone prevents bacteria forming biofilms. The team worked out the 3-D structure of the enzyme—called Sortase A—which allows the bacteria to make biofilms. By doing this, researchers were able to identify how trans-chalcone prevents the enzyme from functioning. Dr. Dominic Campopiano said: “We were delighted to observe that trans-chalcone inhibited Sortase A in a test tube and stopped Streptococcus mutans biofilm formation. We are expanding our study to include similar natural products and investigate if they can be incorporated into consumer products. This exciting discovery highlights the potential of this class of natural products in food and healthcare technologies.”

The study, published in the journal Chemical Communications, was supported by Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company and the University of Edinburgh.

(Source: University of Edinburgh news release, May 26, 2015)