By Joe Paine, Staff Writer

Students from the microbiology class, Nick Camic and Sarah Bunch, in the microbiology lab

Nick Camic and Sarah Bunch in the
microbiology lab
(Photo by Joe Paine).

  Microbiology students at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) test toothpaste on fellow students.

 Dr. Jean Doty’s microbiology class was given a choice to pick their own experiment. Nicholas Camic, Sarah Bunch, and Luke Klinker have been working on Dr. Doty’s microbiology project since the beginning of this semester.

 “We picked toothpaste because Luke and I want to go to dental school,” said Camic “and recently companies have been banning triclosan, which is found in toothpaste’s like Colgate Total.  So, we wanted to see if and how these toothpastes kill bacteria.”

  Nick’s group had ten volunteers who brushed their teeth on April 18th in the Ricker science building.  The volunteers swabbed their teeth with a Q-tip before and after brushing, the swabs were then be wiped on petri dishes and incubated at 37 Celsius for 24 hours.  The volunteers returned for a second swabbing of their teeth later that day.

 Already the tests have shown more bacteria growth from the post brushing petri dishes.

“This is because the bacteria in your mouth are moved around during brushing making them more susceptible to be picked up by the swab” said Camic.

 The volunteers used either use Colgate Total (for using triclosan), Aquafresh (for being the cheapest), Toms of Maine (for using herbal ingredients), or Crest toothpastes (for using flouride).  Camic, upon looking at some of the bacteria in the petri dishes, decided which toothpaste he wouldn’t want to use. “It looks like Colgate Total is leaving more bacteria in your mouth even with triclosan, so I just wouldn’t use that.”

 The test will also see if the toothpastes are killing the good and healthy bacteria, the bad bacteria, or the fungus.  “Some toothpastes and other things do more than just kill the bad bacteria, they could either kill healthy bacteria or cause super bugs, which are bacteria that have built a resistance to some of our soaps,” said Camic, “Super bugs are caused when a soap will kill 99% of the bacteria, but the one percent left over and alive will breed more bacteria that are more resistant to the soap.”

 This is the first time these students have experimented with actual students, instead of zebra fish in Marine Biology.  “A lot more things can go wrong when dealing with people because not everyone brushes the same way and some people take it more seriously than others,” said Camic.

 The volunteers brushed their teeth in the bathroom on the second floor of Ricker, except there is only one male bathroom and the volunteers were a mix of men and women. So, the two sexes mixed and brushed their teeth together in the single male bathroom, accompanied by a male using the urinal. While walking to brush his teeth Brian Nolan, a junior at UMF, saw a girl walk out of the bathroom.  “Woah, that was weird.  I wasn’t expecting that.” said Nolan with a chuckle.