Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have been developing a cavity vaccine that may put an end to dentistry woes. This vaccine, which is not yet approved for human trials yet, could potentially defend kids’ teeth from developing the tiny, painful erosions in their chompers. Cavities, caused by the acid byproduct of a bacteria named Streptococcus mutans, can be mitigated, researchers found, by mixing the bacteria with proteins in order to protect teeth and gums from being eaten away. And it’ll protect your bank account from being devoured, too.
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Cavities are four times more common than early-childhood obesity and 20 times more common than diabetes. Some reports say it is the most common ailment in children. And, in addition to the pain caused, they also come with a hefty price tag. One study showed that the cost to maintain a cavity for the length of a lifetime could be anywhere from $1,800 to $2,100 dollars. And that’s just one. Having additional cavities — which is often the case — would make a lifetime cost much more substantial.
While everyone is prone to cavities (some teeth, like those with deep grooves on their surface, are just more prone to developing cavities, even with a meticulous routine) a person’s socioeconomic status plays a large role. Poorer families tend to have worse diets, which makes them more likely to develop tooth decay. In fact, children who are between ages 2 to 5 and who are in a family with incomes below the poverty level have a greater risk of experiencing cavities.
No amount of meticulous brushing and flossing, however, can totally protect young teeth against the real cavity culprit: sugar. When it breaks down the mouth, sugar releases the very acid that causes cavities, which dissolves into the enamel of the teeth. Even scarier, if that sugar buildup isn’t removed from the teeth within 20 minutes of eating, tooth decay immediately begins. Sugar consumption has been increasing every year and so has the incidence of cavities. While toothbrushing and flossing and regular dentist visits do their part, the only real way to protect your kid from cavities is to limit that sugar.
Here’s hoping this new vaccine is successful. It could save money for families — especially those who would have the hardest time paying for dental work.