Immune Cells May Play a Role In Causing Cavities

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Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that cavities may be collateral damage from an overzealous immune system. New Atlas reports: Traditionally, bacteria have taken most of the blame for cavities and tooth decay. The bugs cling to your teeth as plaque and produce acid as waste, which dissolves tooth enamel, dentin and even filling material. But the new study suggests the story is more complicated than that. Oral immune cells called neutrophils are dispatched by the body in response to invading bacteria — but the researchers found that they might be a little careless in the battle.

On their own, neutrophils can’t damage teeth but the problems arise after acids from bacteria demineralize them. Once weakened, enzymes released by the neutrophils could wreak havoc on other tooth substances. Damage was found to appear in a matter of hours, and worse still, it also seems to apply to tooth-colored fillings, which may explain why they tend to fail within five to seven years. The silver lining of the discovery is that it could lead to new types of treatment, or new standards for testing materials that are to be used in fillings. The research was published in the journal Acta Biomateralia.


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