Protecting Your Teeth With Antibacterial Chewing Gum?

Dodging bullets and defending our country doesn't leave much time for dental care, which can be a big problem for soldiers n the field. But chewing gum laced with a protein that works like an antibacterial isn't a safe answer either.

Because as many as 15 percent of U.S. soldiers have suffered from dental emergencies while on duty, Army scientists have developed a chewing gum that contains KSL, a protein created to kill harmful mouth bacteria such as streptococcus mutans. KSL works by targeting the cell membranes of bacteria in the mouth.

Unlike other antimicrobial chewing gums and mouthwashes on the market, however, researchers say KSL is digestible, as it is broken down by enzymes once it reaches the stomach.

Aside from being exposed to needless and unknown antibiotics, chewing gum is no sensible answer to keep your teeth clean.

Fact is, people chew gum much longer than they need to, fooling their stomachs into secreting too many digestive enzymes when there's no food to digest. And, worst of all, the simple act of chewing gum increases the release of mercury from any dental filings you may have.

Although scientists tout this product's many recreational uses outside combat, let's hope they recognize the problems inherent in this antimicrobial gum before it ever has the chance of harming anyone's health.

Nature.com November 11, 2005

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