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Photo by Kate Bingaman-Burt

All about a new mouthwash which kills harmful bacteria and leaves helpful bacteria alone. Plus: a computer program which ‘makes dental crown treatment 10% quicker’

Perhaps the acronym of a new mouthwash provides a big clue to the product’s ambitious intentions. The scientist responsible for STAMP (specifically targeted anti-microbial peptides) thinks it provides the “prospect of wiping out tooth decay in our lifetime”.

Many patients who are worried about tooth decay benefit from making an appointment with a dental hygienist. Putney dentist Ethicare tailors hygienist appointments to suit patient’s individual needs – gently removing areas of stubborn staining and offering dietary advice as required.

Hygienists the world over could soon benefit from the skill of Wenyuan Shi: the microbiologist at the University of California School of Dentistry (UCLA) who invented a sugar-free lollipop which helps fight tooth decay.

For the past ten years Shi has been working on a mouthwash ‘smart’ enough to kill the harmful organisms found in the mouth which cause tooth decay without killing the bacteria which help improve human health. Conventional mouthwash, he points out, is incapable of targeting individual organisms and so indiscriminately kill both harmful and helpful organisms. Existing mouthwash also only protects the mouth’s environment for 12 hours.

These limitations are something that Shi and his team of scientists were keen to address during their research. They seem to have had great success as during a recent clinical study, 12 subjects who rinsed just once with the proto-type mouthwash experienced a “nearly complete elimination of the S.mutans bacteria” over a four-day observation period.

Shi’s company has now applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a licence to market the mouthwash for general use. If the FDA gives the green light, the STAMP mouthwash will be the first tooth-decay drug since fluoride was licenced almost 60 years ago.

It is also hoped that STAMP could provide a stepping stone for other ‘smart-bomb’ products to be developed – ones which could combat other diseases.

New dental crown visualisation software

STAMP is not the only new dental product which is currently being developed. According to, researchers in Sweden claim to have developed computer software which should significantly cut the treatment time and expense for people who have dental crowns fitted.

Scientists from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg looked at a dozen international guidelines governing how teeth should be shaped before being fitted with dental crowns. They fed this information into the new visualisation software.

The guidelines include:

• The recommended ratio between the height and width of the teeth
• How thick a layer should be ground down in order to leave enough space for the crown

If a crown is poorly-matched with a tooth then bacteria can collect in gaps and this can in turn lead to cavities and loosening of the teeth. It can also result in a crowns falling off and having to be re-fitted.

Using the guidelines, the software projects a 3-D visualisation image of what an individual’s tooth should look like prior to a crown being fitted. The projection will ensure that as much healthy tooth as possible remains intact after the preparation is completed.

Chalmers dentist Matts Andersson believes that the software should improve the quality of treatment, increase the life of dental crowns and save patients large amounts of money.

He said: “Most dentists are very skilful, but no human being can achieve this sort of optimisation as efficiently as a computer program.”

The dentist added: “I estimate that the treatment sessions would be 10 per cent shorter using the program.”

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