Dental caries is caused by the acid produced when oral bacteria break down sugars from food. This acid acts on the tooth's enamel and softens it, causing a gradual loss of calcium and phosphate. This process, known as demineralization, eventually leads to collapse of the weakened enamel and the formation of a dental cavity, which marks the tooth's destruction.
Streptococcus mutans is a pathogenic bacterium that is often linked to dental plaque and dental caries. This bacterium adheres to the surface of teeth and clusters together with other bacteria to form dental plaque. S. mutans not only produces a substance that accelerates the maturation of dental plaque, it also metabolizes carbohydrates to produce the acid which eventually destroys teeth.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers from China and South Korea investigated the anti-cariogenic activities of Artemisia princeps against S. mutans. A. princeps or Korean mugwort is a perennial plant widely used in traditional Asian medicine. The researchers found that extracts from this medicinal plant exert a bactericidal effect that can stop the growth of S. mutans and potentially prevent dental caries.
The study design involved the evaluation of the increase in acid production and biofilm formation by S. mutans, as well as the determination of the expression levels of virulence factor genes. Virulence factor genes are DNA that encode substances (e.g., toxins) produced by microorganisms. These factors help bacteria invade their host, cause disease and evade host defenses.
The researchers performed real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to accomplish quantify the expression of virulence factors. They also used confocal laser scanning microscopy to test the bactericidal effect of the Korean mugwort ethanol extract.
The researchers reported that the extract inhibited the growth of S. mutans at concentrations greater than 0.05 milligrams per milliliters (mg/mL). Using the safranin staining method, they also found that the extract has an inhibitory effect against biofilm formation at concentrations greater than 0.05 mg/mL. These results were similar to those observed through scanning electron microscopy.
Meanwhile, confocal microscopy revealed that the A. princeps extract exerted a bactericidal effect at high concentrations (0.4-3.2 mg/mL) and in a concentration-dependent manner. Real-time PCR analysis also confirmed that the extract could inhibit the expression of virulence factor genes.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that A. princeps can inhibit the cariogenic activity of S. mutans and may be useful as a natural anti-cariogenic agent. (Related: Prevent tooth decay with this native plant from Papua, known as sarang semut.)
The Korean mugwort is commonly found in East Asia and is widely used in China, Japan and South Korea. The leaves and seedlings of this plant can be eaten raw or cooked and are usually added to salads or soups after their bitterness has been removed. The young leaves of Korean mugwort are also boiled and pounded into glutinous-rice dumplings known as mochi, which is a traditional rice cake that's popular in Japan and other Asian countries.
According to studies, Korean mugwort has anti-atherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that make it an excellent ingredient for cosmetics. Today, various skin care products like body creams, lotions and even shampoos contain Korean mugwort extracts as these have been found to help with skin peeling, dryness, itching and redness, especially in people with atopic dermatitis.
In traditional Asian medicine, Korean mugwort is known as an effective remedy for inflammation, diarrhea, carbuncles, bacterial infection and circulatory disorders like coronary atherosclerosis and hypertension.
Discover other natural remedies for oral diseases at OralHealth.news.