If, as Napoleon Bonaparte said, an army marches on its stomach, then it must stand on its teeth. Unfortunately, the quality of the teeth in the army can be very difficult to maintain when soldiers must be miles away from the nearest

dentist and operate under harsh conditions that leave little time for oral hygiene.

As a result of these difficulties, soldiers often suffer major dental problems during their tours of duty. Dental emergencies account for 10% of all non-combat injuries requiring evacuation from the battlefield. Transportation costs and treatment add up to tens of millions of dollars a year. With 40% of recruits coming in to the army with three or more cavities, army dentists are looking for ways to combat oral decay for soldiers, and they think they may have found the solution: anti-plaque chewing gum.

Developing a Gum That Fights Plaque

Because of its oral hygiene properties, the Army already includes sugar-free gum its MREs (meals ready to eat), but researchers are trying to find a solution that actively combats dental plaque. This new gum includes a secret ingredient, codenamed KSL-W, a synthetic peptide that mimics the defensins, bacteria-killing compounds naturally produced in saliva. This peptide can attack bacteria, making it hard for bacteria to form colonies in the body.

In the early stages of clinical trials, research seems to be going well, although it has been used on relatively few subjects. The gum has yet to go into large-scale trials or be compared to sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol, a sugar substitute that also has antibacterial properties.

An Aid for Your Dentist

In addition to uses for the army, there is a great deal of interest in bringing the gum to the general public. Researchers have already been approached by several companies about producing the gum commercially.

The gum is not intended to replace tooth brushing or regular visits to the dentist. Instead, it’s seen as a hygiene aid that can help reduce the amount of bacteria present in the system, helping to maintain oral health between dental visits.

If you are overdue for a visit to the dentist, please call 949-238-6745 to schedule an appointment at Rice Dentistry in Irvine today.