NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – An experimental cavity-fighting toothpaste may be better at preventing tooth decay and cavities than traditional fluoride toothpaste, according to a study.

The new agent does not contain any fluoride, which has been the cornerstone of cavity prevention for decades.

The product, called CaviStat, contains the amino acid arginine as well as calcium carbonate. The toothpaste may help fight cavities by promoting a higher pH in the mouth, according to Mitchell Goldberg, president of Ortek Therapeutics Inc., the company granted the licensing rights to the product by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York.

After eating food, the bacteria trapped in sticky plaque inside the mouth metabolize sugars and release acid. Over time, this process can eat away at the enamel of the tooth and promote decay.

The study, which is due to be presented at the International Association of Dental Research in Sweden later this week, suggests the calcium carbonate portion of the CaviStat might also remineralize teeth at a higher rate than fluoride, explained Goldberg in an interview.

Dr. Dan Meyer, director of science at the American Dental Association characterized his reaction to the study as “guardedly optimistic.” He said he hasn’t actually evaluated the product.

“Normally, you like to have several studies that find similar results,” he said, adding that the current study “shows promise,” but more research is needed to validate the anti-cavity findings.

In the study, Dr. Israel Kleinberg, of Stony Brook University in New York, and colleagues evaluated the efficacy of CaviStat among 726 Venezuelan children who were between 10 and 11 years old.

Half of the youngsters were instructed to brush their teeth three times a day for one minute with CaviStat toothpaste, and the other used traditional fluoride toothpaste.

After one year, CaviStat appeared to reduce the signs of early tooth decay, according to Goldberg.

At the end of two years, kids who used CaviStat had fewer cavities compared to the ones in the fluoride group, said Goldberg.

Although this is the first large clinical trial of the product to be conducted, Goldberg said he is confident that future trials will show similar results.