WSU professor, student team up with Ocean Spray to stop tooth decay

  • WSU professor David McDonald and graduate student Alisha Prince are working with Ocean Spray on research that could one day stop tooth decay.
  • They're researching the properties in cranberries and other natural extracts to see how they react with bacteria in the mouth.
  • Prince is getting valuable hands-on experience she hopes will help merge biology with dental care.

Wichita State biology professor David McDonald and graduate assistant Alisha Prince are trying to change the world, one mouth at a time. The team is teaming up with Ocean Spray to research synergistic properties contained in cranberries and other natural extracts that will, in theory, stop the decay of teeth and provide an alternative to traditional oral health care.

McDonald and Prince hope their findings will one day provide reliable, cheap and tasty alternatives to typical teeth cleaning as well as unlocking the secrets to stopping oral diseases.

“We knew these substances would help aid in the fight against oral diseases, but the synergy of them working together had never really been observed before,” said Prince.

After a summer's worth of research, McDonald reached out to Ocean Spray, the prominent brand behind many juices and snacks, for support that would continue the team's inquiries.

Finding the link between these two areas of health care will be essential to stopping bacteria and viruses of the future.
Alisha Prince, 
graduate student


Ocean Spray has provided extracts as well as other vital materials for the team's research and has been a significantly helpful part of their work.

Once these extracts are received, Prince measures and observes the different ways bacteria respond to the mixtures of cranberry and other natural extracts. Each individual combination has its own effects on the bacterial growth.

“There is a real disconnect from the dental industry with biological sciences,” said Prince. “Finding the link between these two areas of health care will be essential to stopping bacteria and viruses of the future.”

McDonald said the trial and error of finding the perfect combination is tedious, but knowing that people's livelihood will benefit from this work is the driving force behind it all.

“So, until then, we will continue to work through each combination, one at a time, until we find the results we're looking for.”

Prince has been able to combine not only her experience from dental school in India, but also her passion for helping people who have never had an opportunity for reliable oral health care. Prince knew that she wanted to continue her work as a dental professional, but also realized that combining her area of expertise with the microbiological aspect of the work would help find unique solutions to such a complex problem.

The lack of access to standardized health care is an issue that has caused a plethora of problems in her home country of India. Gum diseases such as gingivitis run rampant in developing countries where access to health care is limited. The lack of care for teeth leads to impairments in life, social stigmas, as well as the hardships of not providing the body with adequate nutrients. 

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