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Laboratory Assessment of Plant Extracts to Improve Oral Health

Grant Winners

  • Jonathan Coffman, Ph.D. – College of Medical Sciences
  • Peter Murray, Ph.D. – College of Dental Medicine
  • Ken Namerow, D.D.S. – College of Dental Medicine


  • Robert Uchin – College of Dental Medicine
  • Harold Laubach – College of Medical Sciences


Investigations of oral health among Americans have shown that almost everyone suffers from oral diseases during their lifetime. The creation of improved healthcare products is essential to prevent oral diseases and the associated loss of teeth, discomfort and pain. Caries decay destroys (rots) vital tooth structure, and is commonly-associated with the Streptococcus mutans bacterium. Gingivitis and Periodontitis are both types of gum diseases associated with inflamed, painful and bleeding gums, commonly caused by Porphympmas gingivalis bacterial infection. Fungal infections can cause painful lesions to the oral soft-tissues, commonly Candida albicans is involved. Action is needed now to develop improved oral healthcare products such as toothpastes and mouthwashes to help prevent and alleviate the suffering of millions of Americans. Our hypothesis is that the oral healthcare of the general population can be improved by creating new healthcare treatments containing plant extracts against the oral pathogens (Streptococcus mutans, Porphympmas gingivalis, and Candida albicans) that cause caries decay, gingivitis, periodontitis, and fungal infections. The objective of this proposal is to assess the effectiveness of plant extracts that have been reported to have antimicrobial and/or antifungal activity to destroy oral pathogens in the laboratory. This will be conducted in the following specific aims: Specific Aim 1; we will test the in vitro antimicrobial and antifungal activity of plant extracts against common oral pathogens. Specific Aim 2: we will assess the in vitro toxicity and safety (biocompatibility) of plant extracts. The completion of these specific aims will allow us to formulate a new generation of toothpastes and mouthwashes that utilize the medicinal activity of plant extracts. These products will have the potential to improve the oral hygiene, oral healthcare and quality of life for hundreds of millions of Americans, and billions of people worldwide.

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