Stamping Out Decay

Wenyuan Shi in his labIn the United States alone, nearly $100 billion is spent every year on dental services, with the bulk of that spent on the treatment of dental caries. Before they even get their driver’s licenses, the majority of adolescents have developed cavities, which can have lasting painful effects, such as tooth loss, decay, and periodontal disease.

As health care costs continue to rise, the need for disease prevention technology could not be greater. For the past 10 years, Dr. Wenyuan Shi, Professor and Chairman of the Section of Oral Biology at UCLA School of Dentistry, has been working on a technology that could essentially wipe out the bacteria that cause cavities. His technology, called specifically targeted anti-microbial peptides or STAMPS, is currently in the clinical trial phase of development, but could be available to the general public in the near future.

The substance would be released into the oral cavity to kill the bad bacteria that cause cavities. But unlike conventional mouthwash and the other antibiotics on the market, it ignores the good bacteria. The effect would be the creation of a protective barrier for the good bacteria that provides long-term therapeutic benefits. If approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, STAMPS could be prescribed by dentists and could add up to billions of dollars saved in dental services every year. 

BEYOND THE ORAL HEALTH BENEFITS, DR. SHI’S TECHNOLOGY HAS EVEN GREATER MEDICAL IMPLICATIONS. THE DISCOVERY OF A TARGET-SPECIFIC ANTIMICROBIAL HAS THE POTENTIAL FOR COMBATING SYSTEMIC DISEASES THAT AFFECT OTHER PARTS OF THE BODY.