One of the biggest knocks against candy is that it causes cavities. Now some genius scientists from Berlin-based biotechnology firm, OrganoBalance, may have figured out a way to manufacture the sweet treats in a way that eliminates that risk almost entirely. Sounds too good to be true? Read on . . .

As you may or may not know, while sugar is considered the villain when it comes to cavities, it is actually the streptococci mutans present in the saliva that are the real culprits. The bacteria that love to feed off the remnants of sugar that remain on the surface of the teeth, release acid while doing so. This causes tooth enamel to wear down resulting in the dreaded holes or cavities.

To try render the bacteria harmless, Christine Lang and her colleagues at OraganoBalance turned to Lactobacillus paracasei. The bacteria that is naturally found in cultured milk product, Kefir, is known for its ability to bind with streptococci mutans and therefore could potentially help draw the bacteria away from the teeth. What was encouraging was that the idea had been successfully tested on rats.

In order to see if that would work, the team created two batches of mint candy - each coated with different amounts of dead L. paracasei. A third batch was left bacteria free. The researchers then lined up 60 lucky volunteers to test their theory.

They began by testing the level of streptococci mutans present in each participant's saliva. Then began the fun part - one third enjoyed candies with 1 milligram of L. paracasei, another third, ate mints that were covered with 2 milligrams, while the remaining received the unaltered treat. Each volunteer was allocated five pieces over the day and a half period. After that the scientists re-measured the bacteria levels to see if there was any significant difference.

According to the researchers who reported their findings in the December 2013 edition of Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins, three-quarters of the volunteers that had the bacteria-laced candies had less of the pesky streptococci mutans in their saliva then prior to the experiment. Even more interesting was that the volunteers who consumed the candy with two milligrams of L. paracasei, showed lower counts after just the first candy. Conversely, less than 60% of those who ate the unaltered mints experienced any reduction. What was even more encouraging is that the L. paracasei did not destroy any of the beneficial mouth bacteria.

Lang believes that because the L. paracasei cling on to the streptococci mutans, they do not allow them return to the tooth surface. This means that the simple acts of spitting or swallowing can help reduce the numbers present in the mouth substantially. She says that while most prevention methods rely on killing harmful bacteria, this one simply displaces them to areas where they can cause no damage.

While Lang and her team are still conducting experiments and trying to convince the world about the effectiveness of their theory, Croatia-based Plidenta is a step ahead. They have already introduced a toothpaste fortified with dead L. paracasei bacteria and know it works - at least for the 50 users they tracked for four weeks. Though that is certainly good news, what would be better is if a candy manufacturer stepped up to the challenge. Unfortunately, none have taken the bait . . . yet!,,