A world Without Cavities



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Student Worksheet – January 2007

A World Without Cavities



Dr. Martin Taubman and his colleagues at the Forsyth Dental Institute look for life-long protection

Brushing and flossing are critical in protecting your teeth against a variety of oral health problems. And oral health problems often lead to other health problems all over the body. Wouldn’t it be great, then, if you could be vaccinated against dental caries (cavities)? You’ve been vaccinated against polio, smallpox and a host of other diseases … why not caries?

For 30 years, Dr. Martin Taubman of the Forsyth Dental Institute in Boston has sought a way to make such a vaccine. You can understand Dr. Taubman’s work if you remember that the bacteria in your mouth plus foods that provide sugar create the acid that eats away at tooth enamel.

Follow this link (http://www.whatayear.org/) to learn more. Look for this information in the January 2007 issue by clicking on the 01.07 icon.

Use the information you find there to answer the questions below.

1. What is the full name of the bacteria that cause dental caries?


2. What portion of Americans suffers from missing teeth?

3. Sucrose is broken down into two “simple” sugars. What are their names?


4. The Mutans bacteria are very busy: they produce adhesin, glucosyltransferases, and glucans. Can you explain how each of these contributes to the creation of dental caries?
5. Ultimately this infectious process leads to the creation of lactic acid in the mouth. What does that do?
6. When would you have to administer a vaccine against caries? Why then?


BONUS
You can make a rough guess of a person’s age by asking the person what vaccines he or she got as a child. Younger people have been immunized against more diseases than older people. See if you can create a childhood vaccine history timeline.

7. What is an antigen? An antibody?


7. Is there any proof that this is a workable concept?
9. What might be an economic benefit of an anti-caries vaccine?
10. What is the work of salivary glands and why is it important in dental caries research?


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