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After enduring decades of dental phobia, dentistry has become a leading field of health care research as scientists find new ways to prevent cavities and promote oral health as a route to better overall health and well-being.
New Cavity Filling Materials Made Using Body Chemistry
Remember the metallic fillings of years ago?
Researchers eventually determined that some of those materials contained mercury.
Many of those fillings were replaced with newly developed composite materials that were believed to be safer but proved to contain another chemical that was later identified as potentially toxic.
Now scientists have created yet another new material for fillings that doesn’t contain any apparent toxicity, mostly because it is made from compounds found in the human body.
The human liver produces fat-digesting substances called bile acids that are stored in the gallbladder.
Canadian and Chinese researchers have discovered that by chemically altering these acids they can produce resins that make a plastic which is actually stronger than composite filling materials that are currently in use.
The new materials, both hard and durable, are also less likely to crack.
New Method Restores Eroded Tooth Enamel
Many people experience cavities because the enamel that protects the outside of the tooth is gradually worn away. Researchers believe that among the reasons is the volume of acidic drinks – both soft drinks and juices – commonly consumed today.
Also, a common symptom of diabetes is a condition called dry mouth, known medically as xerostomia. A frequent result of elevated blood sugar, people produce less saliva.
That’s a problem because saliva carries minerals that help replenish the enamel surface of teeth and keep them intact.
Without this continual restoration, enamel can more easily wear away. When that happens it leaves only a latticed crystalline structure with no protection whatsoever.
But scientists appear to have found a new way to reverse that effect.
A research group in Australia says it has developed a novel method to help repair enamel that has begun to wear away.
It’s a process that involves applying a concentrated solution directly to the tooth. This strong mix is made up of calcium, fluoride and phosphate, which are the primary building blocks of tooth enamel.
During sleep, the solution is diffused into the enamel and restores the original strength of the tooth surface by embedding the minerals into the crystal framework. A compound found in milk is used to stabilize the solution, enabling the repair.
With a custom-designed tray that fits over the tooth to keep the minerals focused on the surface, it also prevents any dilution from saliva. The process can also be used to prevent tooth decay and tooth loss, scientists believe.
That’s vital for general good health, because oral bacteria that colonize in the mouth as part of an advanced tooth decay process can spread into the gum’s soft tissues.
As the body tries to fight this infection, a part of the immune system kicks in and can actually produce an overreaction in response to the bacteria.
Potentially, this overreaction can trigger a cascade of serious system-wide health effects related to inflammation, including arterial disease that could contribute to heart problems and a host of associated health issues.
Preventing Cavities with a Mint?
There’s still too much consumption of sugary processed foods and soft drinks, and not enough brushing to suit most dental health authorities.
For years, dentists’ consistent message about avoiding sugar and practicing good home care including flossing and brushing seemed to work, with a 40-year decrease in tooth decay in kids.
But lately that trend has reversed and there’s been a 28 percent jump in cavities in children over the last eight years.
Now parents and dentists may have a new tool. An oral biologist at New York’s Stony Brook University, Israel Kleinberg, figured out how to use saliva’s chemistry to neutralize acidity that can erode enamel.
A scientist who mixes biochemistry with dentistry, Kleinberg developed a cavity-fighting mint. In an initial year-long study, children who had two mints a day experienced 68 percent fewer molar cavities.
Here’s how it works
A cavity-fighting agent called Cavistat is the mint’s active ingredient. It introduces an amino acid – arginine – that neutralizes sugars in food that would otherwise be used by oral bacteria in attacks on the teeth. The Cavistat contains other compounds that help keep the enamel intact.
The mints don’t replacement for flossing and brushing, so parents will need to continue focusing kids on good dental hygiene.