In America, just about half of us brush our teeth twice a day–and yet 20% still have untreated cavities. Part of that is because millions of Americans don’t have access to affordable dental care, but there’s also another culprit: crappy toothpaste that doesn’t really get the job done. But researchers at Newcastle University in the UK think they may have found the magic, missing ingredient that we need to cut down on tooth decay: seaweed!
The researchers were initially studying the enzymes in seaweed to see if they could help clean ships. But what they found is a much more practical, everyday use: Seaweed toothpaste.
Seaweed, it seems, manages to do what regular toothpaste can’t do, which is act preventatively. See, plaque builds up when bacteria on your teeth die (yeah, sorry, it’s pretty gross), and can get way down in the cracks and dents and other tight spaces on and between teeth. Which means even if you brush your teeth several times a day, every single day, and you floss, and you even occasionally use mouthwash, you may still be missing bacteria, which can lead to plaque, which can lead to tooth decay. A better solution? Keep the plaque from building up in the first place, by wiping out the bacteria. That’s where the seaweed comes in.
Think of it like this: Imagine your mouth is your apartment, and you have a new puppy (bacteria) that always pees on the floor (that’s the plaque in this metaphor). Now, you could just clean up the puppy mess every time it goes, which is what your toothpaste does, or you could actually train the little monster to hold it until you can take him outside, so there’s no more pee on the floor. That’s what the seaweed does–it keeps bacteria at bay, so there’s less plaque to begin with. Or at least, that’s what the scientists at Newcastle have proposed. Here’s what Dr Nick Jakubovics, of Newcastle’s school of dental sciences, said in a press release.
Plaque on your teeth is made up of bacteria which join together to colonise an area in a bid to push out any potential competitors…Traditional toothpastes work by scrubbing off the plaque containing the bacteria – but that’s not always effective – which is why people who religiously clean their teeth can still develop cavities.
Seaweed derivatives are already sometimes found in toothpaste, as a thickening agent, but so far, the enzymes haven’t really been a focus. Could preventing decay with seaweed really be the next frontier or dentistry? It’s a pretty sustainable resource, so long as the ocean it’s drawn from isn’t full of mercury and other crap, and it’s pretty inexpensive.
What do you think? Would you use seaweed toothpaste if it tasted totally normal and kept your teeth in way better shape?
Image: Leonid and Anna Dedukh via Shutterstock