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Progressive radiographs of a patient with severe periodontitis that improved with microbial treatments and one surgery. (Image courtesy of Dr. Howard Tenenbaum)
0 Comments Apr 23, 2015 | News Americas

Dental plaque can be used for disease prediction and treatment

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TORONTO, Canada: Researchers from Canada have suggested that dental plaque, a bacterial biofilm formed on dental surfaces, can be used to predict, identify and treat diseases. In a recently established laboratory, they collect and analyze plaque samples to screen for biomarkers that correlate with certain oral and systemic conditions, such as diabetes.

In particular, the researchers scan for the 16S rRNA gene, which is unique to each bacterial type, yet present in all bacteria and can thus be used to distinguish individual species. Plaque analysis only takes a few hours, and the results help the scientists determine disease risk and shed light on the effectiveness of a specific treatment rapidly.

The research is being conducted at the recently formed Oral Microbiome and Metagenomics Research Laboratory at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Dentistry. It is currently focused on plaque as a source of microbiological biomarkers for disease, but aims to study biomarkers for inflammation, for example.

"We are providing a bacterial surveillance service to patients," said Dr. David Lam, a co-leader of the laboratory. "There is no other service like this in Canada right now. We want to go beyond this, to monitor disease progression and responses to therapies."

In the future, the laboratory's work could also benefit head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, which often damages oral mucosa and salivary glands, the researchers believe. With the development of plaque transplantation therapies, for instance, healthy plaque samples could help stabilize bacterial content in the mouth and effectively protect teeth without the use of chemicals, operations or other invasive procedures.

Although saliva analysis is already part of oral microbiome research, bacterial numbers in saliva can vary and fluctuate owing to a number of factors, including diet. However, bacterial content from plaque remains stable over time, according to the researchers. In addition, plaque can be accessed relatively easily and noninvasively compared with other disease testing methods that involve blood, for example.

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