The Greatest Breakthrough Since Lunchtime #13

(The Greatest Breakthrough Since Lunchtime a reference to Colin Douglas’s book)

An interesting article from The Daily Wail  except that a Google search shows that it isn’t exactly new news.

A new gel that dissolves tooth decay could provide an alternative to the dentist’s drill.

The gel, made from a compound found in the fruit and leaves of the papaya tree, works within a minute to soften up the decay.

This can then be scraped away and replaced with a standard filling. There is no need for a local anaesthetic. The gel is being tested in a clinical trial in Brazil on 30 patients.

Tooth decay occurs when mouth acid dissolves the outer layer of teeth. The mouth is full of bacteria that combine with food particles and saliva to form the sticky film known as plaque that builds on teeth.

Bacteria in the plaque produces acid, which gradually destroys the tooth surface. Left untreated, this can expose nerves in the tooth and cause toothache.

According to the NHS, tooth decay is one of the most widespread health problems in Britain. Some 31 per cent of adults have decaying teeth, and one in three children aged 12 show visible signs of tooth decay.

Early stage decay can be treated with fluoride varnish that may prevent further damage.

But if the enamel has worn away and a cavity formed, decay must be removed and replaced with a filling.

Currently, decay is cleared away using a dentist’s drill, which is not only unpleasant for the patient, but may also damage surrounding healthy tissue.

The new gel is based on papain, a compound that comes from the outer surface of the leaves and fruits of the green papaya, which grows in tropical regions such as Brazil and Hawaii.

Papain breaks down proteins. It is commonly used in laboratories to analyse biological samples.

It has also been used to dress and clean wounds, burns and bedsores because it can break down decaying tissue while leaving healthy tissue untouched.

Early studies at Nove de Julho University in Brazil showed it was highly effective in 13 out of 14 teeth treated.

The team is testing the papain gel on 20 patients, comparing it to a placebo gel.

They hope to release it onto the market in the next three years if the human trials prove successful.

Commenting on the research, Hugh Devlin, professor of restorative dentistry at the University of Manchester, says: ‘This is an interesting material, and may be useful in treating young children.

‘However, we still need more research before this type of gel can be adopted into mainstream dentistry.

‘Generally, we need more spending on research into restorative dentistry to produce similar developments in this country.’

Meanwhile, scientists have revealed how gum disease can stubbornly persist for months and even years.

The team from the University of Pennsylvania, writing in the Journal of Immunology, revealed that the bacteria responsible for gum disease — called Porphyromonas gingivalis — hijack the natural defences of the gum cells and prevent them from sending alerts to the immune system to tell them that they are under attack.

The researchers identified proteins in the bacteria that block the alert response from being launched.

They have developed molecules to silence these proteins, allowing the distress signals to be sent.

In early-stage animal experiments, injections of these silencer proteins into the gums allowed the immune system to clear the infection.

Researchers hope to develop this solution into a dental treatment that can be used easily on humans.

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