How Close are We to a Vaccine for Cavities?

Preventive dentistry has taken long strides in the direction of eliminating dental diseases. In this endeavor, the caries vaccine has generated a good deal of enthusiasm. This modality of treatment can prevent the occurrence of dental decay on a large scale.

The concept of a vaccine can be visualized primarily with the recognition of mutans streptococci as the key microorganisms in the development of decay. Thus efforts have been directed at preventing its colonization in the oral cavity.

How it works
The basis of a vaccine is that it keeps the patient in a state of readiness such that in case an infection does occur, the immune response which is more rapid and effective can be mounted. Thus during the first response, the memory cells that later remember the earlier attack and respond much better.
The significance of anti-bodies in the protection against dental decay lies in that, the presence of high levels of anti bodies in the fluid of gums has been correlated with low levels of decay.

Routes of Administration

  1. The various routes that have been tried out include:
  2. Oral Route: Considered safer than systemic route.
  3. Systemic route: This has been tried in monkeys.
  4. Active gingivo-salivary route: In order to limit the potential side effects, this has been tried in the gums of rabbit and monkeys.
  5. Active immunization: Various new approaches have been tried out in order to overcome the existing disadvantages.
  6. Passive immunization: Involves passive or external supplementation of the antibodies. This carries the disadvantage of repeated applications as the immunity conferred is temporary. Several passive approaches tried out are:
    1. Monoclonal antibodies: The topical application in human subjects brought a marked reduction in the implanted dominant microorganism.
    2. Bovine milk and whey: Systemic immunization of cows with a vaccine leads to the bovine milk and whey containing antibodies. The immune whey brought a reduction in the caries level in a rat model.
      This whey was also used in a mouth rinse by Filler et al [1991]. This resulted in lower percentage of microbes of plaque.
    3. Egg-yolk antibodies: The novel concept of using hen egg-yolk antibodies against the microorganisms was introduced by Hamada [1990].
    4. Transgenic plants: Large scale production is possible as it would be quite cheap.
    5. An apple a day keeps the tooth doctor away: Researchers are working on ways, to inject a protein fragment into the fruit that blocks the plaque dominant microbes which causes tooth decay so that cavities and painful visits to the dentist could become a thing of the past. British scientists at Guys Hospital in London have already isolated a gene and the protein fragment that prevents the bacteria from sticking to the teeth. Professor David James (2000), a plant biotechnologist at the Horticulture Research International in Southern England, is trying to find ways to deliver the protein into the mouth through apples and strawberries.

Read more about cavities here.

Apples may provide a link to caries vaccinations.

Though some difficulties are being faced at the present, caries vaccine is certainly a very vibrant issue. The potential implications are enormous and should be pursued with the same vigor as before. If we here at Dr. Marchbanks Arlington office had less cavities to fill, we’d have more time to help those with bigger oral problems and to clean  your smiles!

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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If it's been more than 6 months since your last teeth cleaning, give us a call today to schedule your check-up.