Previous studies have demonstrated the introduction of processed sugars coincides with the prevalence of S. mutans in dental plaque and biofilm. There is also an abundance of evidence that indicates S. mutans in the decay process leading to dental caries. In a recent study published in 2017 in the Journal of Dental Research, Garcia et al aimed to utilize a small molecule (3F1) to determine its efficiency in preventing dental caries and preserving the oral microbiome.1
Garcia et al previously identified the small molecule used in this study and determined that 3F1 has a “ narrow spectrum activity against S. mutans biofilm.” Considering prior to the introduction of processed sugar there is little evidence of the presence of S. mutans in humans, one could postulate that this bacterium is not a key player in a healthy oral microbiome. Therefore, by using the molecule to alter the presence of S. mutans without further altering the microbiome would be an interesting angle in prevention of dental caries.
Garcia et al used a rat caries model to determine anticaries efficacy. The study was done in a controlled experimental environment with a caries-promoting diet. The rats were infected with S. mutans then fed a caries-promoting diet followed by treatment with 3F1 or fluoride, with a control group receiving no treatment. After 4 weeks of treatment the severity of enamel lesions was significantly reduced in both the fluoride group and the 3F1 group when compared to the no treatment group. Additionally, S. mutans CFUs in dental plaque was decreased in the 3F1 and fluoride group when compared to the no treatment group. At the end of the study, the three groups’ microbiomes were analyzed, and the authors found they were “closely clustered together regardless of treatment.”
The study results suggest selective targeting of S. mutans biofilm with a noncytotoxic small molecule (3F1) can effectively prevent dental caries while preserving the overall microbiome. Further observations to note are that the 3F1 treatment increased S. gordonii biofilm and this may be a contributing factor to the decrease in dental caries as S. gordonii antagonize S. mutans through production of hydrogen peroxide.
In summary, Garcia et al state “we identified novel small molecule 3F1 capable of selectively dispersing S. mutans biofilms independent of well-studied biofilm-related factors. 3F1 treatment-controlled S. mutans in a rat caries model and prevented dental caries. The dysbiosis of the oral microbiome is mainly attributed to daily sugar intake and not the abundance of S. mutans, as the reduction of S. mutans colonization by 3F1 did not significantly alter overall the microbiome at the phylum and genus levels.”
Do you think a treatment like this would be more accepted by patients? Do you think the cost would be comparable to a fluoride treatment? Do you think the depth of the science regarding using a “small molecule” to prevent dental caries will be difficult to explain to concerned patients regarding safety and efficacy?
- Garcia SS, Blackledge MS, Michalek S, Su L, Ptacek T, Eipers P, Morrow C, Lefkowitz EJ, Melander C, Wu H. Targeting of Streptococcus mutans Biofilms by a Novel Small Molecule Prevents Dental Caries and Preserves the Oral Microbiome. J Dent Res. 2017 Jul;96(7):807-814. doi: 10.1177/0022034517698096. Epub 2017 Mar 10. PMID: 28571487; PMCID: PMC5480807.