Combat Gum?

In this undated photo provided by the U.S. Army Dental and Trauma Research Detachment, a prototype chewing gum containing antimicrobial peptide, KSL is shown. AP

America's fighting men made their way across Europe during World War II with Juicy Fruit in their rucksacks. The GIs of the future could be carrying a type of chewing gum a lot better for their teeth.

Army and civilian scientists are working to develop gum for combat soldiers too busy to brush.

The gum, described at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists convention this week in Nashville, would contain a special bacteria-fighting agent to prevent plaque, cavities and gum disease.

Soldiers in the field often do not have the time or the means to brush and floss. Beyond that, the stress of combat can encourage bacterial growth in the mouth, said Col. Dennis Runyan, commander of the Army Dental and Trauma Research Detachment in Great Lakes, Ill.

Gum was considered an ideal solution because the Army already issues gum to soldiers in their field rations.

Dr. Patrick DeLuca, a University of Kentucky drug product developer, is working to perfect the prototype, trying to make it taste better and ensure that it retains its bacteria-fighting ability and flavor for 30 minutes to an hour.

Once the development stage is complete sometime in the next year, scientists will begin field-testing the gum, possibly with Army units.

If the Army decides to go ahead with the idea, it will probably team up with a manufacturer to produce the gum. The Army has been talking to such companies as Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., the maker of Juicy Fruit, Runyan said.

Runyan said he hopes to see a finished product available within four years.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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