Towards a breakthrough in clinical dentistry targeting disease-causing bacteria and preventing microbial diseases

Prof. Nurit Beyth, D.M.D., Ph.D. Department of Prosthodontics

In general dentistry, dentists use materials that come into close contact with the hard and soft tissues of the mouth. In fact, restoration failure is generally attributed to a combination of oral bacteria and the inappropriate features of the dental materials being used. Unfortunately, these materials are prone to biofilm formation by bacteria, affecting oral health. Biofilm-related infections do not respond to antimicrobial treatment. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, up to 80% of human bacterial infections involve biofilm-related microorganisms. Biofilms contain communities of disease-causing bacteria, and their uncontrolled accumulation has been associated with cavities and gum disease. Although biofilms can be removed by routine oral hygiene aids or professional dental instruments, they tend to calcify into dental calculus, making their removal difficult. Organisms in a biofilm are 1,000-1,500 times more resistant to antibiotics and are involved in a wide variety of microbial infections (about 80% of all infections). In fact, 1,000 different bacterial species have been identified in the dental biofilm.

Prof. Nurit Beyth, from the School of Dental Medicine at Hadassah, has focused her research on the growing demand for the development of innovative antimicrobial materials. In spite of the numerous existing potent antibiotic drugs and other modern antibacterial substances, bacterial infections still represent a challenge. Therefore, Prof. Beyth’s attention has focused on the development of new antimicrobial means to combat emerging microbial diseases, multidrug-resistant microbial infections and biofilm-associated infections. Her work is directed toward improving the antibacterial properties of dental materials. Prof. Beyth’s most significant achievement has been the modification of various dental materials to achieve antimicrobial properties, for which a patent was issued. An additional research project which has great potential for the prevention and treatment of caries focuses on the development of phage (bacterial viruses) therapy in order to use bacteriophages to treat pathogenic bacterial infections for intraoral “housecleaning.” Prof. Beyth, in collaboration with Dr. Ronen Hazan from the Hebrew University, isolated a particular bacteriophage found to be effective in preventing infections following root-canal procedures and caries. Prof. Beyth’s work involving the modification of various dental materials may lead to a significant breakthrough in clinical dentistry, which may greatly contribute to the longevity of dental materials by preventing biofilm accumulation.

Prof. Beyth’s research is extremely important and worthy of support since, in dentistry, efficient and dental restorative materials are crucial for an adequate recovery of masticatory and esthetic functions. Thus, the materials that are being used should not be prone to biofilm formation, which impairs oral health. Prof. Beyth’s innovative work is focused on finding solutions to these issues.

Prof. Beyth was awarded the Frank Popper Award for Outstanding Young Investigator and has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals and chapters in books in the fields of biomaterials, microbiology and dentistry. She is a member of the International Association for Dental Research and the Israeli Society of Oral Rehabilitation.