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New Candy Kills Cavity-Causing Bacteria

New Candy Kills Cavity-Causing Bacteria


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A new candy might just kill bacteria that cause cavities.

Wait, wait, this might change Halloween forever. Apparently, a biotechnology firm in Berlin has created a candy that doesn't cause cavities. In fact, it might just prevent them.

PSFK reports that OrganoBalance has created a candy that can actually break down cavity-causing bacteria. Specifically, streptococci bacteria that stick to a person's teeth after eating sugar and are a major cause of cavities.

The researchers decided to counteract this with other bacteria, a heat-killed bacteria called Lactobacillus paracasei, which binds to the bad bacteria and kills it, PSFK reports.

A short-term test gave subjects either a placebo or a candy that included Lactobacillus paracasei, and in testing, the researchers noted an immediate reduction of mutant streptococci after eating Lactobacillus paracasei-laced candy.

"The present pilot human data support our understanding that these bacteria, even when heat-killed and contained in a sugar-free candy vehicle, foster specific co-aggregation with mutans streptococci in planktonic suspension in saliva and, thereby, an increased probability that they will be cleared from the mouth," the researchers write in their abstract. Which means in the future, your dentist could be giving you some sugar-free candies, instead of a toothbrush and a sticker.


Science! New candy fights cavities

By Tuan C. Nguyen
Published December 28, 2013 11:00PM (UTC)

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This article originally appeared on Smithsonian.com.

Increasingly, scientists are figuring out new ways to get around the fact that there’s often a price to pay for indulging in too much of anything. Their latest potential win-win? Sugary sweets that actually fight cavities.

A study, conducted by researchers in Berlin, shows that those who suck on a mint containing a particular type of bacteria actually reduce the levels of cavity-causing bacteria in their saliva. Suppressing the growth of such “bad bacteria,” in the long run, may lead to better oral hygiene and less contact with the dentist’s drill, the research suggests.

The beneficial bacteria, isolated during a screening process that looked at more than 800 strains, is called Lactobacillus paracasei, a probiotic found in dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. As a non-spore forming bacteria, L. paracasei has a demonstrated track record for safely treating diarrhea in babies for this reason, it’s often found in infant formulas. It also lives in your mouth where, investigators have observed, it can prevent the growth of Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that sticks to the lining of teeth and produces acids that dissolve enamel.

L. paracasei can be added to just about anything,” says Christine Lang, lead researcher and founder of the German biotech startup Organobalance. “It’s not like xylitol where the ingredient can only be added to gum to help prevent tooth decay. We’ve added it to toothpaste and even sugared candy, which doesn’t interfere with how the bacteria works.”

The efficacy of this approach hinges on the fact that, like the mucous lining of our intestinal tracts, the mouth is host to entire communities of microbes—as many as 1,000 species and counting—that take up residence along our gums, tongue and teeth. All day long, they multiply and feast on organic debris that gets trapped in the crevices of teeth as food passes through. And, similar to the delicate ecosystem found within the gut, a festering imbalance of a pathogenic strain like Streptococcus mutans in the mouth can hasten inflammation and serious diseases, such as dental decay.

In this case, L. paracasei may help keep such a threat in check by binding to Streptococcus mutans and preventing the bacteria from latching on to teeth, a mechanism that remains effective even when the L. paracasei used are dead. To test the theory, Lang’s team provided 60 volunteers with a regimen of mints to suck on five times throughout the course of two days. Saliva samples were studied after the initial serving of candies and also following a final round the next morning. The results, published in Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins, show that 75 percent of those who were given the candies containing a dead version of L. paracasei had lower levels of Streptococci mutans in their saliva than they had the previous day. And compared to the placebo group, this test group’s saliva had significantly reduced S. mutans as an immediate effect, the researchers concluded.

Though the results are promising, James Bader, a professor of dentistry at the University of North Carolina, isn’t entirely convinced that probiotics would make a significant impact on cavity-forming bacteria and would like to see more research aimed at demonstrating long term efficacy. “The reduction by the candy is really temporary and very small,” he tells NPR, reasoning that combating cavities would require using additives that attack bacteria in the biofilm, or plaque, on the teeth as opposed to in the saliva.

Lang contends, however, that consistently applying the kind of interventions that cultivate an environment hostile to Streptococci mutans can, over time, reduce the biofilm that accumulates, which in turn should result in less cavity formation. She points out that studies on rats fed a diet containing L. paracasei over the course of 42 days revealed a significant decline in dental caries. She also plans to perform follow-up studies to demonstrate an effect in humans.

What’s encouraging for Lang and others in the field is that the notion of maintaining good oral health through probiotics has already shown considerable promise. While this new candy is only in the early phases of being tested, L. paracasei is used in a toothpaste product already on the market. Researchers in New Zealand and Australia, for instance, have also found strong evidence that sucking on lozenges with another beneficial bacteria called S. salivarius K12 helps to freshen bad breath. And compared to the conventional method of disinfecting with bacteria-eliminating mouth rinses, it’s an approach that might be better for your overall health.

“I myself would not rinse and kill all the bacteria because you’re getting rid of the good ones and the bad germs can always come back,” Lang says. “It is necessary that we have a good balance of bacteria, which is very natural and protects you too.”


Is Candy That Fights Cavities Too Good To Be True?

Increasingly, scientists are figuring out new ways to get around the fact that there's often a price to pay for indulging in too much of anything. Their latest potential win-win? Sugary sweets that actually fight cavities.

A study, conducted by researchers in Berlin, shows that those who suck on a mint containing a particular type of bacteria actually reduce the levels of cavity-causing bacteria in their saliva. Suppressing the growth of such "bad bacteria," in the long run, may lead to better oral hygiene and less contact with the dentist's drill, the research suggests.

The beneficial bacteria, isolated during a screening process that looked at more than 800 strains, is called Lactobacillus paracasei, a probiotic found in dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. As a non-spore forming bacteria, L. paracasei has a demonstrated track record for safely treating diarrhea in babies for this reason, it's often found in infant formulas. It also lives in your mouth where, investigators have observed, it can prevent the growth of Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that sticks to the lining of teeth and produces acids that dissolve enamel.

"L. paracasei can be added to just about anything," says Christine Lang, lead researcher and founder of the German biotech startup Organobalance. "It's not like xylitol where the ingredient can only be added to gum to help prevent tooth decay. We've added it to toothpaste and even sugared candy, which doesn't interfere with how the bacteria works."

The efficacy of this approach hinges on the fact that, like the mucous lining of our intestinal tracts, the mouth is host to entire communities of microbes—as many as 1,000 species and counting—that take up residence along our gums, tongue and teeth. All day long, they multiply and feast on organic debris that gets trapped in the crevices of teeth as food passes through. And, similar to the delicate ecosystem found within the gut, a festering imbalance of a pathogenic strain like Streptococcus mutans in the mouth can hasten inflammation and serious diseases, such as dental decay.

In this case, L. paracasei may help keep such a threat in check by binding to Streptococcus mutans and preventing the bacteria from latching on to teeth, a mechanism that remains effective even when the L. paracasei used are dead. To test the theory, Lang's team provided 60 volunteers with a regimen of mints to suck on five times throughout the course of two days. Saliva samples were studied after the initial serving of candies and also following a final round the next morning. The results, published in Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins, show that 75 percent of those who were given the candies containing a dead version of  L. paracasei had lower levels of Streptococci mutans in their saliva than they had the previous day. And compared to the placebo group, this test group's saliva had significantly reduced S. mutans as an immediate effect, the researchers concluded.

Though the results are promising, James Bader, a professor of dentistry at the University of North Carolina, isn't entirely convinced that probiotics would make a significant impact on cavity-forming bacteria and would like to see more research aimed at demonstrating long term efficacy. "The reduction by the candy is really temporary and very small," he tells NPR, reasoning that combating cavities would require using additives that attack bacteria in the biofilm, or plaque, on the teeth as opposed to in the saliva.

Lang contends, however, that consistently applying the kind of interventions that cultivate an environment hostile to Streptococci mutans can, over time, reduce the biofilm that accumulates, which in turn should result in less cavity formation. She points out that studies on rats fed a diet containing  L. paracasei over the course of 42 days revealed a significant decline in dental caries. She also plans to perform follow-up studies to demonstrate an effect in humans.  

What's encouraging for Lang and others in the field is that the notion of maintaining good oral health through probiotics has already shown considerable promise. While this new candy is only in the early phases of being tested, L. paracasei is used in a toothpaste product already on the market. Researchers in New Zealand and Australia, for instance, have also found strong evidence that sucking on lozenges with another beneficial bacteria called S. salivarius K12 helps to freshen bad breath. And compared to the conventional method of disinfecting with bacteria-eliminating mouth rinses, it's an approach that might be better for your overall health.

"I myself would not rinse and kill all the bacteria because you're getting rid of the good ones and the bad germs can always come back," Lang says. "It is necessary that we have a good balance of bacteria, which is very natural and protects you too."


Scientists create candy that's good for teeth

Streptococcus mutans. Gram stain. Credit: CDC

(Medical Xpress)—Dentists warn us that too many sweets can cause cavities. In fact, it's not candy, but bacteria on the tooth surface that cause tooth decay. If you reduce the amount of cavity-causing bacteria, the number of cavities should decrease. Christine Lang of the Berlin biotech firm ORGANOBALANCE and her colleagues have developed a candy that can do this. This candy contains dead bacteria that bind to the bacteria most likely to cause cavities. Subjects who ate the candy had reduced levels of "bad" bacteria in their mouths. The research appears in Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins.

After you eat, bacteria attached to the surface of your teeth release acid. Slowly, this acid dissolves your tooth enamel. As the enamel wears down, cavities can develop. The strain of bacteria most likely to cause cavities is mutans streptococci. When you chew, you shed mutans streptococci into your saliva. Swallowing or spitting removes some of the bacteria from your mouth after you finish chewing. The remaining bacteria reattach themselves to your teeth.

The researchers knew that another type of bacteria, Lactobacillus paracasei, found in kefir, reduces levels of mutans streptococci and decreases the number of cavities in rats. A sugar on the surface of L. paracasei binds with mutans streptococci. Lang and her team think that by binding with mutans streptococci, L. paracasei prevents mutans streptococci from reattaching to teeth.

To test whether L. paracasei could help prevent cavities in people, Lang and her team developed a sugar-free candy containing heat-killed samples of the bacteria. They then tested the candy on a group of 60 volunteers. One third ate candies with one milligram of L. paracasei, one third ate candies with two milligrams and one third ate candies that tasted the same, but contained no bacteria.

Each of the subjects ate five candies over a one and half day period. At the end of the experiment, about three fourths of the volunteers who'd eaten candies with bacteria had significantly lower levels of mutans streptococci in their saliva than they'd had the day before. Subjects who consumed candies with two milligrams of bacteria experienced a reduction in mutans streptococci levels after eating the first candy.

The researchers point out that they by using dead bacteria, they were able to avoid problems live bacteria might have caused. Killing the L. paracasei does not destroy the sugar that binds with mutans streptococci. L. paracasei does not bind with beneficial oral bacteria. This makes it a better choice for cavity prevention than other probiotics.

Abstract
Reducing the burden of pathogenic mutans streptococci is a goal of oral health. Lactobacillus paracasei DSMZ16671, even after heat-killing, specifically co-aggregates mutans streptococci in vitro and retains this activity in human saliva. In rats, it reduces mutans streptococcal colonization of teeth and caries scores. This pilot study sought to assess the potential of heat-killed L. paracasei DSMZ16671 (pro-t-action®) to reduce levels of salivary mutans streptococci in humans, using sugar-free candies as a delivery vehicle. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind in vivo study of three groups examined the short-term effect of sugar-free candies containing 0 (placebo), 1, or 2 mg/candy piece of heat-killed L. paracasei DSMZ16671 on the levels of salivary mutans streptococci determined before and after consumption of the candies. The candies were consumed 4 times during 1.5 consecutive days. Compared to the placebo group, the test groups' saliva had significantly reduced mutans streptococci as an immediate effect. These results suggest the use of heat-killed L. paracasei DSMZ16671 in suckable candies as a method to reduce mutans streptococci in the mouth and, thereby, caries risk. We think this a new concept and strategy for caries prevention and management.


Keep 32 Molecule Kills Cavity-Causing Bacteria, Could Make The World A Better Place

Researchers Jose Cordova of Yale University and Erich Astudillo of Chile’s Universidad de Santiago discovered a molecule they call Keep 32 that kills the bacteria responsible for all the trauma you suffered as a child, lying down blinded by the light as a masked man poked bits of metal in your mouth. Sometimes you don’t feel anything. Sometimes you feel funny.

We all know how it works: Teeth + candy – brushing = cavities. The bacteria Streptococcus mutans metabolizes the sugar, turning it into lactic acid that slowly but surely dissolves the tooth enamel. The Keep 32 molecule kills this bacteria, thus helping you keep all 32 of your teeth in perfect shape. So, how is this better than fluoride? Well, for one, fluoride works by strengthening the tooth enamel, not killing the bacteria – it treats the symptoms and not the cause. Keep 32 goes directly to the cause of your grief.

The patent-pending molecule appears to be quite versatile, and can reportedly be added into mouthwash, toothpaste, gum, candy and even proper food. Cordova and Astudillo are currently in talks to obtain funding for their trials, and if they succeed, we can expect dentally beneficial candy in 18 months. Considering how much money this can potentially make some people, I’m sure there won’t be a problem.

But for now, I shall keep my joy in check, because it will all come to naught if the Keep 32 candy don’t taste like candy.


Can Candies Combat Cavities?

Your dentist told you to avoid sweets, but you may actually be able to fight tooth decay by sucking on candy—if it’s laced with the right dead bacteria. In a new study, volunteers who consumed such candies lowered the levels of cavity-causing bacteria in their saliva, presumably because the dead bacteria tie up the living ones, which are then swallowed.

The surfaces of our teeth teem with millions of bacteria. They churn out acid after meals, etching away at each tooth’s enamel. If unchecked by regular cleaning, these microbes eventually carve a hole, or cavity, in the enamel that a dentist must drill and fill. One group of bacteria, known as mutans streptococci, is the prime perpetrator. Researchers already knew about a strain of “good” bacteria called Lactobacillus paracasei found in fermented milk called kefir that can bind with mutans streptococci in saliva. Previous research demonstrated that this bacterial latching can reduce the number of cavities in rats.

Now, Christine Lang, a microbiologist at ORGANOBALANCE, a biotech firm based in Berlin, and colleagues have shown that L. paracasei reduces the amount of mutans streptococci in the saliva of people. The researchers tested the saliva of 60 volunteers for mutans streptococci. Then, some participants ate mint candies infused with L. paracasei that the scientists had killed with heat. In the double-blind study, other volunteers sucked on bacteria-free mints that tasted exactly the same. The team took another saliva sample after the first round of candies. Each volunteer had another three candies that day and one more the next morning before giving a final sample of spit.

About three-quarters of the volunteers given bacteria-laced candies had fewer mutans streptococci in their saliva than they had just the day before, the team reports this month in Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins. About 60% of the volunteers who ate unaltered mints lowered their bacterial loads, an insignificant change that could be explained by their mere participation in the study, the researchers suggest.

The candies target mutans streptococci when chewing or brushing dislodges the bacteria from the surface of a tooth. A sugar structure on the surface of the L. paracasei, which isn’t damaged when scientists kill the bacteria, hooks onto free-floating mutans streptococci and prevents those cells from returning to teeth, the researchers hypothesize. The volunteer then swallows or spits out the new bacterial buddies, Lang explains. Although some bad bacteria remain in the mouth, L. paracasei can get rid of enough mutans streptococci to lower the risk of developing cavities, the researchers maintain. “This is a completely different way to think about bacteria,” Lang says. “We don’t want to kill them. We just want to move them.”

Cavity-busting candies are plausible, but David Beighton, an oral microbiologist at King’s College London and editor of the journal Caries Research, says he’s not convinced. A complex stew of bacteria creates cavities, Beighton notes. It’s possible that a probiotic bacteria, combined with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, could reduce cavities, he notes. But researchers would need to test thousands of people over at least 2 years to demonstrate effectiveness across a population, Beighton says.

A version of that test may be going on now in Croatia. Residents of the former Yugoslav republic can purchase fluoride toothpaste supplemented with L. paracasei. Manufacturer Plidenta—a company affiliated with BASF, the world’s largest chemical company—has followed 50 toothpaste users for just 4 weeks to date. Results show that the toothpaste cut mutans streptococci concentrations in the majority of users, according to preliminary research from the University of Zagreb. Lang says ORGANOBALANCE, which is not working with Plidenta, is conducting additional research to potentially expand the market for bacteria-bearing products.


How can your cavity be treated with SDF?

Ask your dentist directly whether you’re a good candidate for it, but don’t be surprised if he or she doesn’t bring it up on their own. Almost 80% of dentists surveyed by the American Dental Association in 2017 said they had never used silver diamine fluoride.

Pediatric dentists are more aware of the treatment than general dentists, Moursi said. Indeed, a 2019 national survey of pediatric dentists found almost a third used SDF often to stop decay in primary teeth, and 87% expected to use it more in the future.

Related

Health & Wellness What do dentists give out on Halloween? 1 sweet treat is the ➾st bet'

The push for more aerosol-free dentistry during the coronavirus crisis will likely make the treatment more popular, the experts said. When the ADA recently asked dentists if they were implementing more non-invasive cavity management techniques than before the outbreak of COVID-19, 16% said yes to SDF.

It's always important for a dentist to examine the tooth and determine whether silver diamine fluoride is the right treatment, Moursi said. If it is, it should be part of a plan, he added.

“It's a paradigm shift for dentists as well, but it's something that offers such an opportunity,” Messina said. “It’s not perfect. Nothing is the ‘be all, end all, fixes everything’ answer, but it certainly gives us some things that we weren't able to do before.”

A. Pawlowski is a TODAY senior contributing editor focusing on health news and features. Previously, she was a writer, producer and editor at CNN.


Sweets that are good for your teeth and other dental-health tips

Good news for those with a sweet tooth: Snacking on certain Gummi Bears may ward off cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth, according to researchers at the University of Washington. But it’s not just any gummies that are good for you. Gummi candy made with the sugar substitute xylitol (commonly used in sugarless gum) is said to combat tooth decay. Just how does this candy keep your teeth clean? Read on for more details on the study, plus other helpful dental tips.

GOOD FOR YOU GUMMIES

Recently published in the journal BMC Oral Health, this study reveals that children who ate Gummi Bears with xylitol three times a day over six hours had less plaque and bacteria in their mouths than the kiddos who didn’t. And what, exactly, is xylitol? Sounds scary, but it’s actually a naturally occurring sweetener found in fruit and veggies, including raspberries, strawberries, mushrooms, lettuce, endive and corn cobs. Xylitol rebalances the body’s pH levels, staving off cavity-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites that tend to grow in an acidic environment. Products containing xylitol not only reduce cavities by up to 80 percent, they are also lower in calories than their counterparts containing sugar or other sweeteners.

UP YOUR XYLITOL INTAKE

So where can you get this magical cavity-fighting candy? While you can’t currently buy Gummi Bears with xylitol (researchers had a California candy maker make up a special batch just for the study), it is anticipated that dental-friendly gummies will soon be hitting a candy counter near you. In the meantime, you can chew on other xylitol-based gums and mints from Altoids, Carefree, Trident or Orbit.

For maximum effectiveness, experts recommend consuming four to 12 grams of xylitol per day (one stick of suglarless contains a little over a gram of xylitol). Any more may produce a laxative effect, thanks to xylitol’s high fiber content. Check out Emerald Forest and Epic Dental for an array of xylitol-based products, from gum to jams to chocolate.

OTHER HEALTHY TEETH TIPS

But don’t expect candy or gum to prevent all of your dental dilemmas. To prevent cavities and keep your gums and mouth healthy, take care of your teeth by following these dental tips, as recommended by Crest:
1. Brusha Brusha Brusha. Brush twice a day for at least two minutes morning and night, giving attention to the gum line with small circular movements.

2. Floss. Floss before brushing to remove plaque and loosen debris from the tooth surface.

3. See your dentist. Get dental check-ups twice a year, especially if you are taking birth control pills or are pregnant or menopausal, as you have an increased susceptibility to problems such as gum disease, tooth decay and cavities.

4. Prenatal care. Visit your dentist before becoming pregnant. Expectant mothers can suffer from pregnancy gingivitis caused by hormonal changes and increased blood flow in the body. Plus, regular check-ups throughout a pregnancy can help diagnose and treat related dental hygiene conditions.

5. Got milk? Increase your calcium intake with a daily supplement and by eating fruits and vegetables high in calcium, such as dark leafy greens. Calcium-fortified foods lower the acid buildup in saliva that can lead to the breakdown of tooth enamel.

6. Sleep counts. Believe or not, adequate shut-eye can improve your dental health. Sleep at least eight hours nightly to prevent your immune system from becoming run-down and depleted and leaving you susceptible to infection from oral bacteria in your mouth.

7. Take a multi. Take a daily dose of vitamins C and D for better absorption of healthy mouth minerals like calcium and phosphorous, which support the bone and gum tissue, keeping it healthy. And if taking supplements in pill form is not your thing, mix a vitamin C-packed packet of Emergen-C in your morning juice. Try Emergen-C’s newest flavors: acai (super high in antioxidants) or pink lemonade (50 percent of the profits go towards increasing breast cancer awareness).

Read more about taking care of your teeth by clicking on the following:


The No. 1 worst food for your teeth (it’s not candy)

Did you know that candy is not the No. 1 cavity-causing food? You’ll probably be thrilled to learn that dark chocolate actually promotes good dental health. The worst food for your teeth may surprise you.

Don’t go crackers

Brace yourself: The No. 1 most cavity-causing food in the world is actually the saltine cracker. This fact shocks most of my patients, since crackers are everywhere and are even given to toddlers as a healthy snack.

Saltine crackers are worse than candy for your teeth because they&rsquore a fermentable and highly processed starch. Many people don&rsquot realize that most crackers are highly processed and contain genetically engineered ingredients, essentially increasing the glycemic index and making the food more cariogenic (cavity-causing).

Dental-damaging sugar doesn’t just come from sugar

What&rsquos wrong with sugar? There are naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth that love sugar and proliferate out of control when your diet is full of these processed simple starches.

What happens when you eat a saltine cracker? The bacteria in your mouth have a feast, which allows them to multiply beyond the proper balance in your mouth.

Ever noticed how saltine crackers or Goldfish become sticky in your mouth as you’re chewing them? Even better for the bacteria, that sticky goo gets stuck between your teeth and the bacteria can feast for even longer.

Bacteria is literally wasting your enamel

Just like any organism, after bacteria have a meal, they have to &ldquogo to the bathroom&rdquo afterwards &mdash and this is the stuff that causes bad breath and tooth decay. Yup, you can blame that on bacteria literally &ldquopooping&rdquo in your mouth. I use that word to impress my pediatric patients and I encourage you to explain it this way to your children as well.

Eating simple starches once or twice won&rsquot make your teeth rot &mdash it&rsquos years of cumulative habits. Cut these foods out of your diet and you won&rsquot wake up 10 years later wondering why your teeth look like your grandmother&rsquos.

Opt for healthier grains

If you have children, replace saltine crackers and Goldfish with a whole-grain cracker made of ancient grains like Mary’s Gone Crackers. This simple act will affect your children’s dental health for the rest of their lives. Not surprisingly, saltine crackers aren&rsquot the only simple starch to avoid. Beware of the cavity-causing foods lurking on supermarket shelves and in your kitchen &mdash anything with white refined flour wreaks havoc in your mouth.

As you’re taking stock of cavity-causing foods in your pantry, make sure you put dental-friendly foods on your shopping list. Try my list of the best foods for your teeth.


Hope for the health-conscious: sugar-free ice-cream

Concerned parents asked her to recommend healthy, sugar-free products – but Citineni couldn’t find anything that didn’t taste bitter, or wasn’t too acidic or loaded with artificial ingredients. Meanwhile, reports from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that 23% of children ages 2-11 have at least one primary tooth with untreated decay. Prevalence of untreated decay in primary or permanent teeth among children from lower-income households is more than double that of higher-income homes.

Realizing she’d only meet with children and their parents twice a year at most, Citineni got this idea: if she couldn’t get people to cut sugar out, then why not invent a delicious sugar-free candy that’s actually good for teeth?

From concept to product

Tom & Jenny’s sells its dentist-designed, all natural, sugar-free vanilla and chocolate caramels directly to consumers online, as well as in 13 specialty food stores and nine health care offices like dentists and pediatricians. Business has expanded so much that Thekkekandam has quit his job as a consultant with McKinsey & Company to focus full-time on building Tom & Jenny’s while Citineni runs her dental practice.

Citineni had spent several months researching the health effects of various ingredients. Her search led her to xylitol (pdf), a natural ingredient often used in sugarless gum, which tastes like sugar and, scientists have proved, reduces the cavity-causing bacteria living on teeth.

When the couple moved to New York for Citineni’s pediatric dental training, they spent their weekends experimenting with recipes and sharing the treats with friends and family for feedback. “We must’ve had over 100 trials before we settled on our final caramel recipe,” Thekkekandam recalls.

However, the product still didn’t feel ready for prime time. And while Citineni had entrepreneurial savvy ­– as a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she launched Nourish International, a campus advocacy group that now has 60 college chapters and projects in 28 countries – the couple lacked the culinary expertise required to make the caramels commercially. They needed a food expert’s input.

For months, the couple emailed and cold called top pastry chefs. The guy at the top of their list, Michael Laiskonis, a James Beard Awarded and Michelin-starred pastry chef, finally replied.

The couple met with Laiskonis, who also had a passion for nutrition. After tasting the prototype, he agreed that the entrepreneurs were onto something and, over weeks of many candy experiments, helped make the recipe smoother and more creamy and tasty. He also introduced the chocolate flavor.

More focus groups, particularly with women and mothers, followed, as well as additional tastings with friends and family. “We couldn’t find more amazing references for our product than dentists and doctors,” Thekkekandam says. Then, the couple incorporated their company.


Watch the video: What You Can Do About Bad Breath


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