Oral bacteria are commonly known as the scourge of your oral health. Bacteria form sticky plaque on your teeth and excrete acids that attack your dental enamel and gum soft tissue, leading to cavities and gum disease.

But not all bacteria are bad for your mouth. In fact, some bacteria may hold the key to an all-natural treatment that may eliminate the need for brushing and flossing entirely.

Bizarro Cavity Prevention

The key to this potential treatment is a type of bacteria, Streptococcus salivarius, which, unlike the more damaging Streptococcus mutans, doesn’t form a biofilm on your teeth. Instead, it secretes an enzyme compound, known as FruA, that inhibits S. mutans biofilm formation, which could lead to a reduction in the risk of developing cavities and gum disease.

And, as if it wasn’t weird enough that bacteria may prevent cavities, the activity of this enzyme is enhanced by the presence of sucrose. That’s right, we’re talking about a potential cavity prevention treatment that involves bacteria and sugar–the very two things responsible for most cavities.

Sibling Rivalry

The key is that these two species have evolved together in a competitive environment. S. salivarius and S. mutans compete for resources when they share an environment and to help it gain the upper hand, S. salivarius has developed a natural weapon against S. mutans. Nor is S. salivarius the only oral bacteria that produces FruA. By properly cultivating the good species of oral bacteria in our mouths and eating plenty of sugar, we could effectively eliminate the need for teeth-coloured fillings because we would eliminate the risk of cavities (although obesity and diabetes may be another story . . .)

This is, of course, not the only time we utilize natural rivalries for our benefit–most antibiotics derive from the chemical weapons fungi developed to fight bacteria–but it’s a good reminder that many of the answers to common health problems may be out there already. We just have to know where to look.