Superorganism Combines Bacteria and Fungi to Attack Tooth Enamel
Many of the patients at the Yuba City Dentistry Group are children, and we often find that oral health care for toddlers can be lacking. Depending on toothbrushing habits at home, the snacks and drinks that they consume, and the regularity of their visits to the dentist, toddlers can have beautiful, shiny new teeth, or teeth that are already starting to decay. New information from Penn Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania highlights another very important reason to keep your toddler’s teeth clean — a superorganism attacking the teeth of young children.
“This started with a very simple, almost accidental discovery, while looking at saliva samples from toddlers who develop aggressive tooth decay,” said co-researcher and Penn Dental professor Hyun Koo. “Looking under the microscope, we noticed the bacteria and fungi forming these assemblages and developing motions we never thought they would possess: a ‘walking-like’ and ‘leaping-like’ mobility….It’s almost like a new organism—a superorganism—with new functions.”
These frightening new functions include a resistance to antimicrobial medicines and stickier attachment to the enamel substrate. While oral bacteria and Candida fungi are commonly found in dental biofilm and plaque, this is the first time scientists have seen the two “working” together. The biological partnership uses projections from the fungi to carry the bacteria along the surface of the teeth. While grasshoppers can leap twenty times their length, and frogs can jump fifty times their size, these fungi-bacteria superorganisms are capable of “leaping” more than two hundred times their body length. That means they move across the teeth and colonize new areas much more rapidly than oral bacteria or fungi alone. (Imagine if you were six feet tall and could jump four hundred yards!)
A Balanced Oral Health Routine
How can parents prevent their toddlers from becoming home to this dental superorganism? The researchers believe that disrupting the microbes before they assemble together is the most important strategy. That means cleaning your toddler’s teeth on the recommendation of the American Dental Association, twice a day, for two minutes each time, including flossing. Don’t forget to bring your child in every six months for a professional exam and tooth cleaning. Encouraging good oral health in their youth leads to children having good oral health as adults. Fight the superorganism with regular oral hygiene!