Consumers spend billions of dollars each year on dental care. Researchers at Yale and the University of Chile say they have developed a chemical that could eliminate most of that spending.
The chemical is code named Keep 32, named for the 32 teeth in the human mouth. By adding it to toothpaste or mouthwash, the researchers say, it will kill the bacteria that cause cavities and keep a mouth clear of bacteria for several hours.
Keep 32 is said to target streptococcus mutans, a type of bacterium that lives in your mouth. The germs interact with sugar, turning it into a form of acid that eats away at tooth enamel, causing cavities.
The researchers say the chemical has been tested for at least seven years. It has now entered human clinical trials and, assuming it clears those with no adverse side effects, could become an additive in oral care products within two years.
Plenty of skeptics
It's one of those stories that just sounds too good to be true, and consumers posting comments on stories about Keep 32 appear to be highly skeptical. To many it has the ring of those Web-based urban legends that make the rounds every so often.
"They were testing something like this 20 years ago and was developed by University of Florida," wrote ElDubs, of Florida, in an Internet post. "Either they got bought up by the tooth fixing industry of it was deemed unsafe for long term use. I won't be a first adopter."
"Yeah right, that sounds like a good idea," wrote David, of Kent in the UK. "Forget the underlying cause of tooth decay is poor nutrition, and instead, introduce another poison into our bodies that will no doubt be proven to cause cancer in ten years time."
Despite the skepticism, the news of the cavity-preventing substance is being reported around the world.Â
The researchers, meanwhile, say the chemical has enormous potential, not only as an oral care product but as a food additive. They say they are currently in talks with investors and hope to license the patent to a major U.S. consumer products company.