Pop quiz: What happens when the facial nerve (CN VII) causes the zygomaticus major to contract? — you SMILE! One reason to smile is the interdisciplinary work in the fields of medicine, dentistry, and microbiology! Recent collaborative efforts in these areas have identified and are working to prevent infectious outbreaks due to contaminated water at dentists’ offices. Dental unit water lines are ideal for the growth of biofilms, which also form pesky and durable microbial colonies on your teeth. Beyond having to brush a little better, these bacterial aggregates can lead to serious health problems.
Last week in Orange County CA, nearly two-dozen children receiving baby-root canals for dental caries (i.e. cavities) developed dangerous mycobacterium infections via inoculation from a contaminated dental water supply. This isn’t the first infectious outbreak from dental lines; in 2015 another outbreak occurred at a Georgia clinic. While full-blown infection development is rare, it can be serious and possibly even require surgery to treat. To prevent such infections, special water filters and treatments should be paired with frequent water testing at clinics. Meanwhile, research efforts are underway to combat stubborn biofilm growth. While targeted at oral biofilms versus ones associated with the water supply, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine is making progress in the field. Recently their work was published, describing certain plant peptides that act as antimicrobials, rapidly killing tooth-decay-causing bacteria by thwarting biofilm formation!