Adding enzymes from seaweed microbes to toothpaste and mouthwash may offer protection against tooth decay, according to scientists.
Researchers at the Newcastle University, UK had been studying Bacillus licheniformis to see if it could clean ships' hulls.
But they now believe that it could protect the areas between teeth where plaque can gather despite brushing.
Their lab tests suggested that the microbe's enzyme cuts through plaque, stripping it of bacteria that cause tooth decay.
"Plaque on your teeth is made up of bacteria which join together to colonise an area in a bid to push out any potential competitors," the BBC quoted Dr Nick Jakubovics, of the university's school of dental sciences, as saying.
"Traditional toothpastes work by scrubbing off the plaque containing the bacteria - but that's not always effective - which is why people who religiously clean their teeth can still develop cavities.
"We found this enzyme can remove some of these undesirable bacteria from plaque," he said.
The plaque is made up of lots of different decaying bacteria.
When bacterial cells die, the DNA inside them leaks out and makes a biofilm that then sticks to the teeth.
Instead of removing the plaque entirely, Dr Jakubovics believed that the treatment could strip away the harmful bacteria, like Streptococcus mutans, that cause tooth decay.
"Ultimately we hope to harness this power into a paste, mouthwash or denture-cleaning solution," he added.
Jakubovics said that more studies are needed to show that the technique works and is safe before any products could be brought to market.
The research has been funded by Society for Applied Microbiology along with the Newcastle Healthcare Charity.