We rely on pastes and gels, mouthwashes, dental floss, and other products in an ongoing effort to keep teeth our clean and free of plaque and cavities, though even the most effective dental products cannot completely prevent plaque buildup. In the process, a lot of resources are tied up and washed away in products and packaging.

Scientists in Newcastle, England have found that an enzyme from microbes found in seaweed can cut through plaque, rather than scrub it away as toothpastes do. The enzyme may prevent tooth decay much more effectively than any product currently on the market. That could mean products with fewer resources embedded in them, or eventually even a different type of “paste” altogether.

While businesses are focused on making gradual or incremental improvements to existing products, it often makes sense to invest in new solutions--perhaps looking to science or untapped corners of technology--particularly if those solutions are more effective and require fewer resources. What do you think a different way to keep our teeth clean might look like?

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