Interview: “We intend to ultimately develop a daily use oral care product with a natural substance”
The fight against dental caries has produced a number of innovative ways in which patients can protect and improve their oral health. After much interest in a recently published article on a study into the potential use of berry extract to combat decay-causing bacteria, Dental Tribune International spoke with lead researcher Dr Nebu Philip, from the University of Queensland in Australia, to discuss this new discovery in more detail.
Dr Nebu, the study sounds very interesting. How did the idea for the research topic arise, and who are you working with?
We were interested in developing natural products that could potentially be used to complement fluoride in dental caries prevention. Although there has been extensive literature suggesting the use of natural products for preventing dental diseases, the vast majority of natural product research studies in dentistry are laboratory-based and have not progressed to clinical usage.
I am part of the broad research group called Advanced Materials and Technologies, which is headed by Dr Laurence Walsh. Under this group we had a sub-group focusing on natural products and dental caries – which includes Drs Walsh, Leishman, Bandara and myself. I was the lead researcher of the natural product study, with the group coming together three years ago at the beginning of my PhD programme.
What was the basis of your research concept?
We sought to identify an appropriate natural product. Dark-coloured fruit berries are known to contain a variety of phytochemicals beneficial to health. The availability of commercial fruit berry extracts with standardised phytochemical concentrations offered the possibility of testing these polyphenol-rich extracts against key cariogenic bacterial virulence properties. We progressed from a series of laboratory studies to a double-blinded randomised controlled trial in high caries-risk patients. We have presently completed all these studies and are planning our next clinical trial in a larger cohort of patients.
What do you think the most interesting results were?
The ability of the berry extracts, especially the cranberry extract, to significantly inhibit Streptococcus mutans virulence without affecting bacterial viability was probably the most interesting result. This suggests the possibility of incorporating the cranberry extracts into a daily use oral care product, for example a mouthwash or dentifrice, to reduce cariogenic virulence without affecting health-associated bacterial species in dental plaque, an important advantage over commonly used synthetic biocides, like chlorhexidine.
Do you have further research plans to develop a new oral health product?
The results of our first clinical trial were encouraging. After further clinical studies, we do intend to ultimately develop a daily use oral care product with a natural substance incorporated into it to protect against dental caries. Watch this space!