What do we know for sure kills dental cavity bacteria?
July 1, 2010 7:00 PM   Subscribe

What do we know for sure kills dental cavity bacteria?

Is there a place somewhere that I can find out what has been tested in a lab to kill human dental cavity bacteria? For example, I have been searching to find out if salt water will kill them and I can't find out. Surely someone has tested the basics? And do we know for sure alcohol kills cavity bacteria? Or could they actually digest alcohol?

I am aware of tests with xylitol.
posted by cda to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Certainly antibiotics like clindamycin, cephalexin, clarithromycin, amoxicillin, and ampicillin are often used in dental prophylaxis to prevent bacterial complications.

(Went through a Z-pack myself recently for a root canal that involved... things that ought not to have been there.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:06 PM on July 1, 2010

You'll also see dentists and endodontists sterilizing the canals in a root canal with sodium hypochlorite, or good old bleach, in mild solution.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:09 PM on July 1, 2010

I once had a cracked tooth and no access to a dentist, so I brushed regularly (and carefully!), then rinsed my mouth with Listerine and after that with a little hydrogen peroxide. My goal was to prevent infection until I was able to see a dentist, and it worked. When I was able to go to the dentist he found no infection, and although I needed a root canal and a crown I didn't end up dying from something fairly easily preventable. YMMV.
posted by motown missile at 12:48 AM on July 2, 2010

I might be wrong here -- but I don't think the bacteria which cause cavities are the same as those which cause other type of dental infections, the kinds the above posters are talking about. Those are true infections. Cavities are caused by acid, which is pooped out as a by-product of specific bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) eating the sugar stuck on to your teeth. All in all, you're talking about something hanging out on the surface of your teeth, not like something which breeds and causes infection with immune response and pus and inflammation and all that stuff (like you might have with a jaw abscess).

Trying to kill bacteria in your mouth is a waste of time. Listerine/salt water/mild bleach solution will of course kill bacteria, but you can't sterilize your mouth. What would you do every time you ate? Or breathed?! The approach instead is to 1) reduce weak points on your tooth enamel by reinforcing them with fluoride ions; 2) keep your teeth clean so that bacteria don't have a food source. By the way, unless you're sucking on Jolly Ranchers all the time and absolutely bathing your mouth in sugar, starchy stuff is usually worse for your teeth than sweet stuff. You can eat an ice cream cone or drink soda and the sugar won't stick to your teeth as much as the starch in a saltine - and starch is just sugar to the bacteria.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 4:46 AM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Overeducated - current experiments are being made where one introduces xylitol into the mouth 4 or 5 times a day and it looks like it may reduce the population of the cavity bacteria in one's mouth significantly. This is very promising for a situation like a new mother who has cavities - she is being advised to swab the baby's gums with xylitol several times a day. And this is being shown to prevent cavities in children. And it is pretty common practice right now to acknowledge that a mother having cavity bacteria in her mouth (and she WILL pass it to her baby) is the leading cause of cavities in children. But I don't have the facts all together here for that so don't quote me, I'm just working on this idea. In particular I am trying to intervene in a situation where my niece has many cavities and we want to prevent her new baby from sharing the same fate.

And also swishing something anti-bacterial (specifically targeted to kill the cavity bacteria) through your mouth 4 or 5 times a day may substitute for flossing. (no reference for you on that one either, sorry) That would be glorious!

But I really need to know, and now I am really curious about what is known to kill the bacteria that cause tooth decay. For one thing, with the baby, we don't really have time for a lifetime of experimentation. We know we can swab her gums with xylitol but can we get her, as a toddler, to swish salt water around her mouth also? Because I know for sure I can't get a toddler to gargle with Listerine - that **** is nasty.

I am interested in ways to make compliance happen. It will be easier to get people in my care to use salt water rinse than to get them to use nasty tasting mouth wash or to floss twice a day.

I understand about the starches. But I still think it would help not to have cavity bacteria in your mouth in the first place.
posted by cda at 9:15 AM on July 2, 2010

Xylitol comes in the form of gum and candy. You can easily order these items by searching for "xylitol" on amazon.
posted by choochoo at 9:12 PM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: I'm not sure why this is derailing but I would really like to know if there is a resource on the web that would tell me what has been tested in a lab against the dental cavity bacterias.

I know about xylitol. I'd like to know about anything else that works so I can use and offer a variety of options for the people in my family who include babies, toddlers, teenagers, twenty-somethings and seniors. Telling most of these people to "just floss 2 times a day and use Listerine" is not always practical.

If I could get some of them to at least rinse with salt water it would be an improvement on their current regimen. But it would only be good if I knew that salt water kills the cavity bacteria. Otherwise it's a waste of time.
posted by cda at 2:01 PM on July 4, 2010

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