Friday, January 22, 1999 Published at 13:33 GMT
The end of tooth decay?
Dental decay could become a thing of the past
A new anti-bacterial mouthwash could eventually spell the end of tooth decay, scientists are claiming.
The mouthwash has been developed by scientists at Guy's Hospital in London.
It contains a synthetically-produced peptide which prevents the bacteria that causes tooth decay from binding to the teeth.
All the body's surfaces, including the teeth, are covered in bacteria, but most are harmless.
There is one bacteria - Streptococcus mutans - which is harmful to teeth.
To cause decay, the bacteria has to attach to the surface of the tooth.
The scientists say they have identified a small part of the molecule which causes the bacteria to bind to the surface.
They have been able to manufacture this peptide in such a form that it prevent Streptococcus mutans from binding to the tooth.
This means other harmless bacteria will take its place on the surface of the tooth.
Dr Charles Kelly of Guy's said: "Other mouthwashes get rid of all the bacteria and then they all tend to come back together."
In tests of the mouthwash, people who used it over a three-week period found they did not have any Streptococcus mutans on their teeth after a three to four month period.
Dr Kelly said: "Hopefully they will not get tooth decay."
He added that if people used fluoride and cleaned their teeth properly, the mouthwash could eventually eradicate tooth decay.
The research is published in the Nature Biotechnology magazine.
Guy's plans further more large scale research on the mouthwash and say it will not be available on the market for several years.
Tooth decay has declined in the UK in recent decades, but in the last few years there has been a slight increase in some areas.