No More Cavities
treatments may dispense with the need for the dentist's drill
(BY THOMAS K. GROSE: Wed. Sept 18, 2002)
For some people,
the term "painless dentistry" is an oxymoron. Even the thought of going to
the dentist for a filling makes them clench their teeth in fear. Indeed,
painless dentistry still requires either a series of novocaine injections
- not exactly the most pleasant of experiences - or full sedation. But a
new technology developed by a professor of dentistry in Belfast could mean
that for standard repair of cavities, drills, injections and gas may soon
be consigned to the spitbowl of history.
Offering an alternative to
conventional treatments, the HealOzone TEC3 dental device uses a 10-second
application of ozone gas to eliminate micro-organisms in primary-root
Significantly reducing treatment time and cost,
the system is less invasive than previous methods and conserves more of
the tooth's natural structure.
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Edward Lynch, of the Royal Victoria Hospital's School of
Dentistry, has come up with a technique that allows saliva to help decayed
teeth repair themselves naturally. Holes in teeth are the result of our
modern diet, particularly sugars and carbohydrates. A certain type of
microbe feeds upon sugars, excreting acids that bore into enamel. After a
hole is formed in a tooth, the acid-generating bacterianest in it continue
their dirty work. "Once they're in a hole, they form their own ecological
niche," Lynch says. And eventually, they make the cavity worse.
NO MORE CAVITIES?
remedy Lynch discovered is ozone - a noxious gas that, even in small
amounts, can if inhaled impair respiratory systems. But when it comes to
fighting tooth decay, ozone has several unique and beneficial qualities.
"A hole (in a tooth) is not static, it's very dynamic," he explains.
Thankfully, the bad bacteria are slow workers. Ozone, however, not only
kills these bugs, but it also primes the tooth surface so that
remineralizing can begin. Human saliva is "supersaturated" with calcium
and phosphates, which allow teeth to heal and cavities to close. But ozone
poses a danger, as well. So, this technology uses a method to ensure that
the gas goes only into the hole, not the patient's mouth. A small rubber
cap is fitted over the tooth and the hole is hit by a concentrated blast
of ozone for up to 40 seconds. It's then suctioned out.
team began looking for a chemical treatment back in the mid-80s, but it
was only five years ago that, while using a trial-and-error approach, they
experimented with ozone and quickly recognized its potential. So far, the
treatment has been used in more than 100 test facilities around the world.
The success rate is around 99%, and there are no reports of treated teeth
re-decaying. For patients, the treatment will mean that for most cavities
there will be no need for drilling, eliminating the noise, smell and
discomfort that it can cause. One hundred percent of all patients who have
had the treatment say they would want it again if they needed another
filling. It can be used as a prophylactic, as well. "Children will never
need fillings," if they continue treatment, Lynch says. Healthy teeth
would need to be treated every six months or so, perhaps as part of a
An American ozone specialist, New York-based
Curozone, has teamed with German dental equipment manufacturer Cavo to
commercialize the technology. And Lynch says it could be in dentist
offices "very soon." Cavity-prone patients may soon think that going to
the dentist is a gas.