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On the hunt for organic methods against caries and periodontitis


Between seven and ten per cent of the population have periodontitis or caries, for which treatments are expensive and often applied at an advanced stage. Now Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces at Malmö University has received SEK 4.8 million from the KK Foundation to find new methods of attacking the problem at a much earlier stage.

Gunnel-Svensäter,-OD-prof_w“The film which forms on the teeth, both above and below the gumline, is really nothing other than a dense accumulation of bacteria”, says Gunnel Svensäter, Professor of Oral Health at the Faculty of Odontology at Malmö University.

“The bacteria above the gumline, on the part of the teeth exposed to the oral cavity, cause caries. The bacteria below the gum cause periodontitis, that is inflammation and breakdown of the gums and bone, which slowly leads to loosening of the teeth”.

Currently, visits to the dentists mainly involve mechanically removing accumulated plaque and mending holes in the teeth. Treatment of caries and periodontitis is very expensive. Gunnel Svensäter hopes that the study, planned to run for four years and expected to generate at least six or seven research articles, will lead to completely new approaches.

“The study aims to find different tools to counteract the build-up of plaque before it takes off and to combat caries and periodontitis. It is about changing the conditions for the bacteria. The bacteria which cause caries thrive in a low pH environment, i.e. an acid environment, and those which cause periodontitis do well in nutritious environments. In addition, the biofilms in which the caries and periodontitis are born have completely separate ecologies – they survive on different nutrients, have very different compositions, different physical-chemical conditions and different access to oxygen and nutrition”.

“What we want to find is an organic treatment; we will be investigating a number of substances which can change the environment for the bacteria and make it more alkaline and lean. These are the keys we are looking for”, says Gunnel Svensäter.

Naturally, it will take some time before the market gets to see the results of the study in the form of a dietary supplement which can be taken to prevent caries and periodontitis. The study will be followed by a patenting process. The project is being carried out together with Lund-based companies Enzymatica AB and A1M Pharma. There are plans for both laboratory experiments and a clinical pilot study.
“We have already worked together with Enzymatica and can see that both they and A1M Pharma are very well suited to our activities – they maintain a high academic standard and have a solid basis in our world”, says Gunnel Svensäter.

In addition to the project manager Gunnel Svensäter, the participants from Malmö University are Julia Davies, Claes Wickström, Mikael Sonesson and Jessica Neilands. 

Text: Evelina Mildner Lindén

Last updated by Adrian Grist