FEI recently published this incredible image of a human tooth under an electron microscope. The description of the image is as follows: “Dentinal tubules viewed after demineralization using etching with 37% phosphoric acid for 15 seconds and 10% sodium hypochlorite for 1 minute.” In related news, Discovery recently published a feature on a major breakthrough in dentistry science out of UCLA in Los Angeles.
Wenyuan Shi of the University of California, Los Angeles, has led efforts to develop a mouthwash with technology that kills Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for cavities. First, Shi and colleagues had to understand how these bacteria interact in biofilms, or the sticky colonies of microorganisms that build up as plaque on the teeth. Bacteria often latch on to the surfaces of teeth, breaking down food debris and nutrients into acids that can eat away at enamel and form caries (another word for cavities). These harmful plaque build-ups can lead to gum disease and even tooth loss. The technology, called “Specifically-Targeted Antimicrobial Peptides” (STAMPs), targets cavity-causing bacteria without interfering with other microbes in the mouth. This differs from most antibiotics that kill unwanted bacteria and do away with the good kind as well. But after being exposed to Shi’s technology, the good bacteria develop a type of protection that prevents bad bacteria from forming near them in the future.