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No More Cavities
Ozone 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.

HealOzone TEC3
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 carious lesions.

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?

The 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.

Lynch's 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 routine checkup.

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.