Oral care products containing a natural chemical that stops bacteria harming teeth could help prevent decay, a University of Edinburgh study suggests. The study shows that it blocks the action of a key enzyme that allows the bacteria to thrive in oral cavities.
The team used the remote data collection capabilities on one of Diamond’s five macromolecular crystallography beamlines, I04, to determine the 3D atomic structure of a bacterial enzyme Sortase A. This enzyme creates a protective layer around bacterial cells, preventing them from being destroyed. Using this information, the team successfully identified the mechanisms by which a natural compound called trans-chalcone prevents the protective enzyme from functioning and thus enables the bacteria to be destroyed.
Trans-chalcone is related to chemicals found in liquorice root. Because of its effect on the bacteria’s protective enzyme, the natural plant product couple help to improve oral health by helping to prevent the build-up of plaque, researchers say.
Streptococcus mutans is a type of bacteria that metabolises sugars from food and drink; this process produces a mild acid and leads to the formation of plaque. Without good dental hygiene, the combination of plaque and mouth acid can lead to tooth decay.