An Attempt to Prevent Tooth Decay: Neutralizing the Acid Produced by Bacteria in the Mouth

by Mysty Shaver
Faculty advisor: Dr. Brian Lenzmeier

The degradation of the calcium phosphate enamel of teeth is caused by an acidic environment. This is also known as tooth decay or the formation of cavities. Acid is produced through the fermentation of ingested and chemically produced sugars. This process is carried out by a wide variety of bacteria found in the human mouth. I am attempting to neutralize the acidic conditions created as a result of this process by using common biological buffers, such as potassium phosphate and tris. In using minimal growth medium with the pH indicator, phenol red, and varying concentrations of buffers, I can monitor acid production both quantitatively, by pH, and qualitatively, by indicator color change. To each test tube of growth medium, I added the sugar being studied. Mouth samples were taken using a sterile loop, were dried, and then placed within the test tube. My preliminary research has revealed that the presence of a buffer yields less acidic environments and the higher the concentration of that buffer, the more neutral the pH. In this presentation I will present this data and will discuss future directions for this project.