Though humanity may only recently have realized fluoride’s potential in fighting harmful oral bacteria, these two forces have been at odds with one another for far longer. Researchers from Yale recently published a paper detailing the way in which bacteria have evolved to detect and defend against fluoride.
Riboswitches that Detect Fluoride
A lucky guess brought Dr. Ronald Breaker and his team to their findings about fluoride and bacteria. Dr. Beaker’s Yale team had discovered the existence and function of many new riboswitches, which are pieces of RNA that can sense the presence of certain chemicals and regulate actions against those chemicals. Despite having a great degree of knowledge regarding the function of multiple riboswitches, the team was troubled by one in particular after facing difficulties in determining its chemical target. After a number of speculative guesses and tests, it was the contaminant of a randomly chosen chemical that set off the riboswitch. Further testing revealed the contaminant to be fluoride, the thirteenth most abundant element in the earth’s crust and a common ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash.
How Bacteria’s Defenses Can Help Fight Cavities
By learning more about how bacteria use riboswitches to defend against fluoride, we can increase our own defenses against bacteria. These particular riboswitches are absent in humans, meaning that by learning to manipulate them we may be able to decrease the bacteria’s resistance to fluoride without harming humans. This could lead to more effective fluoride treatments for humans, and fewer cavities for our teeth.
Contact Your Rochester Dentist
While fluoride may be toxic to bacteria, it is actually beneficial to humans and can help growing teeth develop stronger enamel, while helping adult teeth maintain hardness and fight the negative effects of bacteria. Contact Dr. Gilly Calcagno to learn more about the uses of fluoride and how you can help maintain your oral health. To schedule a dental cleaning or exam appointment, call your Rochester dentist at (507)281-3659. Calcagno Cosmetic and Family Dentistry happily serves patients in Rochester, Red Wing, St. Charles, Winona, Farmington, and the surrounding communities.