08 Mar

Streptococcus Mutans

Ever wonder why your dentist told you that candy causes cavities? Candy provides a species of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, with sugar. S. mutans then converts this sugar to lactic acid which eats away at the enamel of the tooth. Teeh do not shed surface cells which allows the accumulation of microorganisms. The accumulation of microorganisms on teeth are referrerd to as dental plague, a type of biofilm. There are over 700 species of bacteria in the oral cavity. Most of the species in the oral cavity can’t be isolated using conventional laboratory techniques. Streptococcus mutans is capable of metabolizing a wider range of carbohydrates making it harmful to tooth enamel. Within minutes a clean tooth will become coated with a pellicle or thin layer of proteins from saliva. Within a couple of hours, cariogenic bacteria become established on this pellicle and begin to produce a gummy polysaccharide of glucose molecules called dextran. Our body does have natural defenses against bacteria. Our saliva contains an antimicrobial substance known as lysozyme. This doesn’t give you an excuse not to brush your teeth!