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Could a Mouthwash Do Away With Dental Visits?

One dental researcher thinks he's found a way to permanently stave off the cavity-causing bacteria that lead to expensive and costly trips to the dentist.

Wenyuan Shi of the University of California, Los Angeles, has led efforts to develop a mouthwash with technology that kills Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for cavities.

First, Shi and colleagues had to understand how these bacteria interact in biofilms, or the sticky colonies of microorganisms that build up as plaque on the teeth. Bacteria often latch on to the surfaces of teeth, breaking down food debris and nutrients into acids that can eat away at enamel and form caries (another word for cavities). These harmful plaque build-ups can lead to gum disease and even tooth loss.

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