While licorice may raise the risk of dental caries, a chemical found in licorice root may prevent plaque buildup on teeth. According to researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, the natural chemical trans-chalcone blocks the action of a key enzyme responsible for encouraging cariogenic microbial growth, and its use in oral care products may be key to preventing biofilm accumulation.
Supported by Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, the study, “Molecular Basis of Streptococcus mutans Sortase A Inhibition by the Flavonoid Natural Product Trans-Chalcone,” published online in June by Chemical Communications, suggest that trans-chalcone is capable of inhibiting the action of S. mutans. Investigating the three-dimensional structure of the enzyme Sortase A, which enables bacteria to make biofilms, the researchers analyzed the role trans-chalcone plays in preventing this enzyme from functioning properly. In fact, the licorice root-based chemical was found to inhibit pathogenic proliferation.
Encouraged by the findings, they plan to expand the study to include similar natural products. Their hope is that natural inhibitors will be incorporated into oral health products for long-term preservation of dentition and improved overall health.