A research study in the latest issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy points out that comparison of antimicrobial peptides that occur in the human saliva can lead to new ways to diagnose dental problems like tooth decay in children.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle set out to determine a possible correlation between dental caries (tooth decay) prevalence in children and salivary concentrations of three types of antimicrobial peptides.
Antimicrobial peptides, or AMPs, are one of the body's natural defenses against bacteria, targeting and killing invading microbes.
Results found that children with no tooth decay had higher levels of one particular type of AMP (alpha-defensin) than children with tooth decay. Therefore, low levels of alpha defensin might be a biological factor that contributes to making some children naturally more susceptible to tooth decay.
Researchers had said that while sometimes children who take good care of their teeth still get cavities, other children, who don't take care of their teeth, don't get cavities, so dental researchers think that some people have better natural defenses against tooth decay than others.
Future studies could lead to a simple test for clinical evaluation of tooth decay risk and to the development of new ways to use these peptides for therapeutic treatment.