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Assessing the oral ecosystem: New research consortium aims to define the ‘healthy’ mouth

By Nathan Gray+

22-Aug-2012
Last updated the 22-Aug-2012 at 11:54 GMT
Last updated the 22-Aug-2012 at 11:54 GMT - Last updated the 22-Aug-2012 at 11:54 GMT

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Defining what constitutes ‘healthy’ is a difficult task for any nutrition researcher. And when it comes to oral health in particular, very little is known about what influences a normal healthy mouth, according the co-ordinator of a new research consortium that aims to break new ground in defining the oral ecosystem.

The TI Oral Health consortium, made up by academic research organisations and industry members including Cargill, GlaxoSmithKline and Wrigley, aims to bring together leading experts in oral health to help answer some of the key questions in the area. And according to the project leader Dr Bart Keijser, the key question is to define what a healthy mouth is actually made up of.

“When you are talking about oral health, most people confuse this for an absence of disease, and usually talk about disease ... but we know very little on the side of what is keeping us healthy, and what is healthy!” explained Keijser, who is a senior research scientist at Dutch research organisation TNO.

“The big goal is to establish or to find out what the principles are – the biological processes – that keep our oral health status healthy.”

Lacking knowledge

The project leader told NutraIngredients that when it comes to talking about ‘oral health’, it is actually quite difficult to define ‘health’.

“We’ve really found that this knowledge is lacking,” said Keijser.

“For me it is important that we get a different view on oral health. That we step away from the pure focus on disease.”

He argues that for the majority of the population, such a focus on disease should not be the case: “We want to find a way to support oral health status in the majority of the population ... So not the 10% that needs attention by the dentist, but the 90% that could have a boost in their oral health status.”

“What the solution to that is, is really up to industry. We can help them with it, with ideas, but at the minute we really need to work on the fundamentals.”

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