It’s not necessarily just bacteria that’s involved in tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health problems.
Early childhood caries (ECC) may result from a nefarious partnership between a bacterium and a fungus, according to a new study in the journal Infection and Immunity (February 24, 2014).
Infection by Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans together doubled the number of caries and boosted their severity several-fold in rats, the University of Pennsylvania researchers found.
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The researchers discovered that the “exoenzyme” that S. mutans uses to react with sugar to produce EPS [extracellular polysaccharide, a sticky glue-like material] also enables Candida to produce a glue-like polymer in the presence of sugar, allowing it to adhere to teeth and to bind S. mutans, two abilities it otherwise lacks. Under these circumstances, the fungus now contributes the bulk of the plaque.
That “plaque,” as we’ve noted before, is a biofilm. And like all biofilms, it has staying power.
In fact, as soon as you clean your teeth, the microbes get to work at recolonizing. Take a look at what happens in just 8 hours (via time lapse photography):
As ever, a healthful diet and excellent home hygiene remain key to your best defense.
Image via Bernardine Pregerson, Pierce College