Scientists have found a way to use nanoparticles to effectively break down plaque and wipe out more than 99.9% of cavity-causing bacteria within minutes, an advance that may help better prevent tooth decay.
The bacteria that live in dental plaque and contribute to tooth decay often resist traditional antimicrobial treatment, as they can “hide“ within a sticky biofilm matrix, a glue-like polymer scaffold.
Researchers at University of Pennsylvania took a more sophisticated approach.
Instead of applying an antimicrobial to the teeth, they took advantage of the pH-sensitive and enzyme-like properties of iron-containing nanoparticles to catalyse the activity of hydrogen peroxide, a commonly used natural antiseptic.
The activated hydrogen peroxide produced free radicals that were able to degrade the biofilm matrix and kill the bacteria within, significantly reducing plaque and preventing the tooth decay , or caviti es, in an animal model.
Even using a very low concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the process was incredibly effective at disrupting the biofilm. Adding nanoparticles increased the efficiency of bacterial killing more than 5,000-fold.
Previous research showed that iron oxide nanoparticles behave similarly to a peroxidase, an enzyme found naturally that catalyses oxidative reactions, often using hydrogen peroxide.