Could There be a “Good” Side to Plaque?

3534956157_63446959fbHa! That title got your attention, didn’t it? Well the answer is NO, plaque probably doesn’t have a kinder, gentler side– but we can learn from it! And what better way than to start creating a plaque catalog with all the different varieties available?

That’s what scientists are doing right now. Researchers in Canada have begun stockpiling plaque samples for study, believing that learning about plaque itself– and the various strains– will give us insight on identifying and treating the diseases that plaque can cause.

Plaque: not your friend

Plaque is the sticky conglomerate of millions of bacteria living in your mouth. And it’s not just the tiny unicellular bodies of each bacterium packed up against each other; the ingredients for plaque include biofilm which is an extracellular substance that bacteria create when they’ve reached critical mass in your mouth.

The trick with biofilm is that it protects the bacterial community. It helps them all stick to your new home, your tooth surface– or even worse, the hard-to-reach places between your teeth and gums. In addition to holding bacteria in place, biofilm wards of enzymatic advances from your saliva intended to loosen the bacterial grip on your mouth. It keeps bacteria in place.

But plaque has an ID too

Researchers at the Oral Microbiome and Metagenomics Research Lab at the University of Toronto are hoping to use a genetic “fingerprint” contained in plaque to help identify the different strains found in our mouths. This fingerprint is located on a strand of rRNA, part of the molecular machinery that keeps are cells alive, and each bacterial type has its own unique “type.”

The scientists want to start by identifying each sample of plaque based on its rRNA fingerprint and creating a catalog of the dental offenders– the usual suspects, if you will. They don’t need much plaque for the job; a sample the size of a pinhead is sufficient.

Future of plaque investigation

The researchers hope to use their plaque inventory to compare the plaque samples of people with specific diseases– say, kidney disease– with samples from a healthy person. Using comparative sampling, they plan on creating a map of health problems and related plaque offenders.

Armed with this information, dental researchers may be able to use plaque identification to treat certain diseases and monitor disease risk.

Compulsory public service announcement: prevention is the best medicine!

We can’t say it enough. Despite all the advances in dental medicine, there is no scientific discovery that can replace simple, thorough, preventative care. Daily hygiene should include brushing twice for two minutes at a time, and flossing at least once. This daily care needs to be supplemented with regular check-ups to your Portland dentists at Burlingame Dental Arts. When we see you on a regular six-month basis, we will always have a clear and up-to-date picture on your dental health.

Schedule your next appointment today!

Photo Credit: timtom.ch via Compfight cc

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