Weird but cavity-free
Over at Astral Codex Ten, the other Scott A. blogs in detail about a genetically engineered mouth bacterium that metabolizes sugar into alcohol rather than acid, thereby (assuming it works as intended) ending dental cavities forever. Despite good results in trials with hundreds of people, this bacterium has spent decades in FDA approval hell. It’s in the news because Lantern Bioworks, a startup founded by rationalists, is now trying again to legalize it.
Just another weird idea that will never see the light of day, I’d think … if I didn’t have these bacteria in my mouth right now.
Here’s how it happened: I’d read earlier about these bacteria, and was venting to a rationalist of my acquaintance about the blankfaces who keep that and a thousand other medical advances from ever reaching the public, and who sleep soundly at night, congratulating themselves for their rigor in enforcing nonsensical rules.
“Are you serious?” the rationalist asked me. “I know the people in Berkeley who can get you into the clinical trial for this.”
This was my moment of decision. If I agreed to put unapproved bacteria into my mouth on my next trip to Berkeley, I could live my beliefs and possibly never get cavities again … but on the other hand, friends and colleagues would think I was weird when I told them.
Then again, I mused, four years ago most people would think you were weird if you said that a pneumonia spreading at a seafood market in Wuhan was about to ignite a global pandemic, and also that chatbots were about to go from ELIZA-like jokes to the technological powerhouses transforming civilization.
And so it was that I found myself brushing a salty, milky-white substance onto my teeth. That was last month. I … haven’t had any cavities since, for what it’s worth? Nor have I felt drunk, despite the ever-so-slightly elaevated ethanol in my system. Then again, I’m not even 100% sure that the bacteria took, given that (I confess) the germy substance strongly triggered my gag reflex.
Anyway, read other Scott’s post, and then ask yourself: will you try this, once you can? If not, is it just because it seems too weird?