Where is the Long Overdue Cavity Vaccine?

When I see a child with a cavity, I right away tell the parent that the child has "strep tooth". I say this partly for effect, as many patients don’t appreciate the seriousness of a cavity. It sounds alarmist to include the word "strep" in conjunction with "cavity", but it makes sense since, for a tooth, a cavity is a potential death sentence. The streptoccoccus bug will infect the tooth and eventually kill it, requiring a root canal.

So while dental experts previously thought that the bug Streptococcus mutans (strep) was the primary cause of cavities in children, a new study has revealed that bacteria named Scardovia wiggsiae was also present in the mouths of all participants who suffered from cavities, even when the Steptococcus mutans was not.

Cavities during early childhood are the most common chronic infectious disease among children in the U.S. Cavities are a disease that is one of the leading reasons for child hospital visits.

And cavities are more prevalent among disadvantaged socio-economic groups that lack access to regular dental care. Cavities are also found in children that consume high amounts of sugar and do not floss and brush their teeth. Serious levels of tooth decay in early childhood may alter eating and sleeping patterns, thereby causing a decrease in age-adjusted weight in older children.
 
So why then, given all of this, there is no pill or vaccine for dental cavities? Our children are vaccinated against so many diseases, but why not the most prevalent disease children suffer from?
 
In fact, the perfect group to vaccinate would be young children. When we are born, our mouths are sterile but quickly become colonized with over 500 “good” bacteria. The ratio of good to bad bacteria is analagous to the normal flora in the gut.

So, if a vaccine could be given early on before the bad bacteria take hold, like the Streptococcus mutans and Scardovia wiggsiae, these bad bugs might never find a home on our childrens’ teeth.
 
So where's the vaccine? I'm a dentist that would rather vaccinate against this infection than anesthetize and drill on my young patients. The Surgeon General states in 2000 that 80 percent of cavity-related problems are concentrated in just 20-25 percent of children, primarily belonging to African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and low-income families. The vaccine would serve even in areas of the world where dental care does not even exist. I smile just thinking of the possibilities.

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