November 1, 2008 Oral biologists formulated a mint that fights cavities with an ingredient called Cavistat. Cavistat contains two main components that protect the teeth. First, the amino acid arginine metabolizes certain bacteria, which neutralizes the acid generated by sugars. This raises the pH to help prevent damage to teeth. Cavistat also introduces other chemical compounds that protect against the dissolving of the minerals of the teeth.
Sodas, candy and processed foods are packed with tooth-decaying, cavity-causing sugar. For the past 40 years, experts have seen a decrease in the amount of tooth decay in children; but according to Centers for Disease Control statistics, the trend is reversing. To tackle the problem, one dental scientist has found a way to use candy to help prevent cavities.
Tooth decay in kids has increased 28 percent in the past eight years. Experts believe too many sugary, processed foods and not enough brushing are to blame. A key factor in fighting cavities is found in your mouth.
"Saliva is the great protector against cavities," said Israel Kleinberg, D.D.S., Ph.D., an oral biologist at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.
Dr. Kleinberg says 40 years of research and more than $1 billion has been spent trying to figure out what saliva has that fights tooth decay.
"I'm one of the pioneers in that as a whole new science," Dr. Kleinberg said. "It's where one mixes dentistry and biochemistry."
Dr. Kleinberg discovered how saliva's chemistry helps teeth neutralize the acidity created from eating food by balancing the pH levels in the mouth.
"[It's] like if you've got a swimming pool," Dr. Kleinberg said. "You have got to get the pH right. If you've got a neutral pH, you've got the ideal condition."
He developed a candy to fight cavities. The candy is fluoride-free and protects teeth in two ways. First, it raises pH levels to neutralize more acid than saliva alone. Second, it protects the minerals in tooth enamel. Arginine, an amino acid, combines with calcium in Cavistat, the candy's main ingredient, and sticks to teeth -- leaving behind a layer of protection.
Kids who ate two mints twice a day for one year had 68 percent fewer cavities in their molars than children who didn't chew the mints.
"The number of cavities, we think that ultimately is going to get to almost zero," Dr. Kleinberg said.
That would bring a smile to just about everyone's face.
All the ingredients in the mints are natural and considered foods, so the product doesn't need FDA approval.
WHAT DOES IT DO? BasicMints contain Cavistat, a cavity-fighting agent that includes two major components. Cavistat disrupts oral chemistry and biology in two ways. First, it introduces an amino acid called arginine to the mouth. When bacteria in the mouth break the arginine down, it neutralizes the acid generated by sugars in food, which reduces the amount of acid in the mouth and helps prevent damage to teeth. Additionally the Cavistat adds other chemical compounds that protect the minerals that make up teeth from dissolving.
ANATOMY OF A TOOTH: We think of teeth as being the part visible above the gum, but this is only the tip, or crown, of a tooth. There is also a neck that lies at the gum line, and a root, located below the gum. The crown of each tooth has an enamel coating to protect the underlying dentine. Enamel is even harder than bone, thanks to rows of tightly packed calcium and phosphorus crystals. The underlying dentine is slightly softer, and contains tiny tubules that connect with the central nerve of the tooth within the pulp. The pulp forms the central chamber of the tooth, and is made of soft tissue containing blood vessels that carry nutrients to the tooth. It also contains nerves so teeth can sense hot and cold, as well as lymph vessels to carry white blood cells to fight bacteria.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.