Toothpaste ingredient repairs teeth while you are sleeping

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The new toothpaste aims to tackle dental decay through a slow release of calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions. View gallery (2 images)

A new toothpaste technology, known as BioMin, is designed to replace minerals lost from tooth enamel, working while the user sleeps to prevent decay. Available to dentists as a toothpaste called BioMinF, and set to be marketed to consumers in the near future, the product is long-acting, and also tackles sensitivity.

Dental decay and sensitivity is extremely prevalent, with some 42 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 affected by it, and a whopping 92 percent of adults between 20 and 64 having to deal with it at some point.

A new toothpaste called BioMinF, based on research from the Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London, aims to tackle dental decay through a slow release of calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions. Whereas normal toothpastes wear off after only a couple of hours, BioMin pastes work for 8-12 hours after brushing, with the flouride – which is resistant to the acid found in things like soft drinks – forming a protective layer over the enamel.

The calcium and phosphate do even more, working with the saliva in the mouth and combining to form a new mineral that’s able to strengthen and rebuilt the tooth structure. Sensitivity is tackled by forming a barrier over open tubules, which provide access to open nerves. The BioMin tech seals off the nerves, lowering sensitivity, particularly to hot and cold food and drink.

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Interestingly, the new sensitivity and decay-tackling toothpaste tech could, according to the team behind it, also appear in other dental hygiene products.

“The technology behind BioMin is not however exclusively designed for toothpastes,” said the company’s chief scientific officer Professor Robert Hill. “It can also be incorporated in other professionally applied dental products such as cleaning and polishing pastes, varnishes and remineralizing filling materials.”

BioMin Technologies – the company behind the breakthrough ingredient – is aiming to commercialise the development of the product, with a fluoride-free version also in the works. The BioMinF toothpaste is available to dentists via wholesalers right now, priced at £5 (US$7) for a 75 ml tube. For everyone else, you can expect the new paste to be on store shelves by the end of the year.

Source: BioMin


Henry Sapiecha

Tiny Silica Particles Could Maybe Repair Damaged Teeth

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Researchers at the University of Birmingham have shown how the development of coated silica nanoparticles could be used in restorative treatment of sensitive teeth and preventing the onset of tooth decay.

The study, published in the Journal of Dentistry, shows how sub-micron silica particles can be prepared to deliver important compounds into damaged teeth through tubules in the dentine.

The tiny particles can be bound to compounds ranging from calcium tooth building materials to antimicrobials that prevent infection.

Professor Damien Walmsley, from the School of Dentistry at the University of Birmingham, explained, “The dentine of our teeth have numerous microscopic holes, which are the entrances to tubules that run through to the nerve. When your outer enamel is breached, the exposure of these tubules is really noticeable. If you drink something cold, you can feel the sensitivity in your teeth because these tubules run directly through to the nerve and the soft tissue of the tooth.”

“Our plan was to use target those same tubules with a multifunctional agent that can help repair and restore the tooth, while protecting it against further infection that could penetrate the pulp and cause irreversible damage.”

The aim of restorative agents is to increase the mineral content of both the enamel and dentine, with the particles acting like seeds for further growth that would close the tubules.

Previous attempts have used compounds of calcium fluoride, combinations of carbonate-hydroxypatite nanocrystals and bioactive glass, but all have seen limited success as they are liable to aggregate on delivery to the tubules. This prevents them from being able to enter the opening which is only 1 to 4 microns in width.

However, the Birmingham team turned to sub-micron silica particles that had been prepared with a surface coating to reduce the chance of aggregation.

When observed using high definition SEM (Scanning Electron Microsopy), the researchers saw promising signs that suggested that the aggregation obstacle had been overcome.

Professor Zoe Pikramenou, from the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham, said, “These silica particles are available in a range of sizes, from nanometer to sub-micron, without altering their porous nature. It is this that makes them an ideal container for calcium based compounds to restore the teeth, and antibacterial compounds to protect them. All we needed to do was find the right way of coating them to get them to their target.  We have found that different coatings does change the way that they interact with the tooth surface.”

“We tested a number of different options to see which would allow for the highest level particle penetration into the tubules, and identified a hydrophobic surface coating that provides real hope for the development of an effective agent.”

Our next steps are to optimize the coatings and then see how effective the particles are blocking the communication with the inside of the tooth.  The ultimate aim is to provide relief from the pain of sensitivity.


Henry Sapiecha

DIY Dentistry: How This College Kid Fixed His Teeth Using a 3D Printer

Braces. The word triggers in me flashbacks of rolling balls of wax onto the wires to prevent the inside of my mouth from being torn open, or choosing which color rubber-bands I wanted to display each month (orange and black in October. Red and green in December. Red, white, and blue in July). I was one of the lucky adolescent ducks who got to don headgear while I slept.

Ah, memories.

The orthodontist’s office becomes a kind of second home during this coming-of-age period of a teenager’s life. Most teenagers, that is.

Amos Dudley, a 3D artist and New Jersey Institute of Technology student, has figured out how to create his own set of clear Invisalign braces after failing to wear his retainer, consequently causing his teeth to shift back into chaos. But being the broke (albeit, enterprising) college kid that he was, Amos decided to take matters into his own hands.

Kids, don’t try this at home.

First, Amos took a mold of his teeth, using alginate powder, and placed it into a yogurt container (oh college) filled with Permastone. He then scanned the casing, generating digital models for several sets of aligners—which he then 3D-printed.

As he documented on his blog: “Creating the animation was…fairly trivial—I separated the visible crowns of the teeth from the gumline, and then made a manifold model from each of the shells. I didn’t bother adjusting the geometry of the gums—they are soft. Then it was just a matter of animating them into their correct positions. I measured the total distance of travel, and divided it by the maximum recommended distance a tooth can travel per aligner.”

Next, using a vacuum form machine, Amos created plastic aligners that fit his 3D-printed models, utilizing the same plastic (and therefore safe) retainer material orthodontists use.

Fun fact numero uno: 3D-printing the actual aligners wouldn’t work.

Fun fact numero dos: apparently you can buy retainer plastic on eBay. “The sale of dental supplies really isn’t tightly controlled,” Amos told Gizmodo. “Who wants them other than dentists?”

The result?

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Amos admits that the aligners are more comfortable than braces. “I’ve been wearing them all day and all night for 16 weeks, only taking them out to eat. I’m planning on fabricating a bunch of retainers for the current position, which I can use—till I die—at night.”

Of course, because this process involves your face, actual dental professionals advise against this sort of Martha-Stewart-do-it-yourself-teeth-straightening business. Lots of other people have tried and failed (miserably) to fix their pearly whites. (Don’t Google this if you want to keep your lunch down).

Associate professor of orthodontics at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry Brent Larson said: “I’m impressed with the way Amos was able to use the scanning and printing technology that he had available to engineer and produce his own aligners but a little frightened that he would actually use them to treat himself without a professional assessment of the health and function of the teeth.”

You don’t need to tell me twice. One of the most scarring movie scenes I’ve ever watched is from Castaway (you know, the Tom-Hanks-Wilson-volleyball-love-story), where Hanks’ character knocks out a rotting tooth using a giant rock and an ice skate blade. While Amos’ denture venture is incredibly impressive, I’m happy leaving my teeth to the professionals.


Henry Sapiecha

The bite evolution: Your teeth will tell where you came from

Research led by Monash University evolutionary biologist Alistair Evans has shown teeth track evolution-image

Research led by Monash University evolutionary biologist Alistair Evans has shown teeth track evolution. Photo: Simon Schluter

Science reveals the secrets of super-sized mammals

Modern diet helping bacteria to wreck our teeth

They’re good for biting, chewing and filling out a cheesy smile for the camera. But teeth have also been shown to be a surprisingly nifty way to track human evolution.

New research has shown that the evolution of teeth, long thought to be a random process, follows a pattern.

A team of international researchers led by Monash University evolutionary biologist Alistair Evans established the pattern applies to up to 90 per cent of human, mammal and hominins.

The main rule is that the biggest teeth for australopiths (the first branch of the hominin tree from which humans evolved) are their back molars, or wisdom teeth. Meanwhile the biggest teeth in humans is the front molar.

“It was always hard to see the forest for the trees because every fossil had to be looked at independently. But here we can see a general pattern and we can be sure that it’s definitely the case,” Dr Evans said.

The newly-defined developmental pattern, outlined in the journal Nature on Thursday, is known as “the inhibitory cascade”.

It sheds lights on how humans and other mammals develop teeth, a process which begins in the embryo.

Understanding how teeth form has uses in fields from academia to cosmetic and medical treatments.

“If we want to do any bioengineering, say grow-your-own teeth, we need to understand these processes,” Dr Evans said. “It’s fundamental research.”

The findings will also enable palaeontologists working with incomplete fossilised jaws to literally “fill in the gaps” and make an informed assessment of the size of the missing teeth.

Dr Evans said when looking at three teeth in a row, the middle tooth would be the average size of the teeth sitting either side.

“This gives us a starting point, as we can compare any new fossil with our expectations … and if we do find some exceptions or changes then we can say ‘well, something really interesting must be happening here’,” he said.

But more importantly, the realisation gives a sense of order to a process previously believed to be random.

“When people had looked at human evolution before they thought ‘everything’s changing all over the place and it’s all very confusing’,” Dr Evans said. “But what we have now is a general framework or a default pattern of development to say that pretty much all hominins and probably all mammals develop in this same way.”

The size and proportion of teeth can reveal not only when meat started to be eaten but also when cooking and the use of tools began. Each of these changes affect tooth size, because suddenly teeth could be smaller.

The 11-member research team began looking at mouse tooth development and established the “inhibitory cascade” rule before confirming the pattern in humans.

To do that they studied tooth measurements from every hominin fossil found to establish that the pattern existed there, which it did. The researchers then tested their theory out on great ape and human data to see if the pattern was evident.

“It was very obvious, immediately,” Dr Evans said. “But nobody had noticed it before.”


Henry Sapiecha


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1…Ax the Dental Visit Anxiety

If being in the dentist’s chair makes you anxious, encourage calm by bringing a music player and headphones to your next appointment. And because some people hold their breath when they’re nervous — boosting that anxious feeling — focus on breathing regularly. Above all, communicate with your dentist. They understand your fears and want to help.

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2…Floss First or Brush First?

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Flossing first helps make brushing your teeth more effective by removing food that gets trapped between teeth. If handling floss flusters you, look for floss holders at the drugstore. When it’s time to brush, be sure to angle bristles 45-degree at the gum line, then brush gently, moving the brush back and forth.

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3…Go Easy With Toothpicks

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If you don’t have floss, a toothpick will work to remove food stuck between teeth, but be gentle. It’s easy to press too hard and damage your gums, or even worse, break off a toothpick below the gum line. Floss helps remove food from between teeth better than a toothpick and fights plaque buildup by getting rid of bacteria that form there. Regularly using a toothpick to remove food trapped in a single area may indicate a bigger problem that requires a dentist’s attention.

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4…Replace Your Toothbrush

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Toothbrush bristles fray, flatten, and wear over time. To help keep your smile bright, replace your manual toothbrush every three or four months; for electric toothbrush heads, follow the manufacturer’s advice. Feeling sick? Avoid harboring germs by replacing your toothbrush at the beginning and end of your illness.

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5…Say Cheese for White Teeth!

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The casein and whey protein in cheese can help keep your tooth enamel in top form by reducing demineralization. A bonus: Cheese also has vital, tooth-building calcium. Don’t forget to include vitamin D in your diet, which helps your body absorb calcium. A few vitamin D-rich foods include milk, egg yolks, and fish.

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6…Stop Stains With Baking Soda

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If your love of coffee, red wine, or other tooth-staining food and drink is leaving your pearly whites dim, try brushing baking soda on your teeth twice a month, just like you would toothpaste, then rinse away to help brighten your smile. If plain baking soda irritates your teeth or gums, you may want to try a toothpaste that contains baking soda or avoid it completely.

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7…Foods Can Stain or Brighten Teeth

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There’s speculation that strawberries may have natural teeth-whitening properties. But it’s best to brush thoroughly after eating teeth-staining food like blueberries, coffee, and cigarettes. To help minimize discoloration, brush, then munch on apples, pears, carrots, or celery, all of which trigger tooth-bathing saliva, which helps keep your teeth bright.

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8…Regulate Your Acid Reflux

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If you have acid reflux, you’ll want to get it under control to help preserve tooth enamel and oral health. Common foods and drinks that trigger reflux include chocolate; alcohol; caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee, and tea; garlic and onions; dairy; tomatoes; citrus fruits; mint; and spicy, fatty, or fried foods.

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9…Take Care of Your Tongue


Tackle bad breath every time you brush — take time to brush or scrape your tongue, too. Your tongue plays host to the bacteria that help cause bad breath, so giving it a scrub, or using a tongue scraper daily, can help reduce odor-causing compounds.

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10…Medication Can Cause Dry Mouth


Your mouth needs saliva to stay healthy, but hundreds of medications, like antidepressants, high blood pressure drugs, and antihistamines, can dry up saliva. Medication is the most common cause of dry mouth. To help keep your mouth moist, increase your fluid intake, ask your dentist about an artificial saliva product, or chew sugarless gum after a meal.

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Henry Sapiecha


20 Bad Habits That Wreck Your Teeth

If we are aware of more things that are exposing our teeth to danger of dame & decay we should take notice & watch if we do them so a correction in out teeth maintenance can be made if necessary

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1…Chewing on Ice

It’s natural and sugar free, so you might think ice is harmless. But munching on hard, frozen cubes can chip or even crack your teeth. And if your mindless chomping irritates the soft tissue inside a tooth, regular toothaches may follow. Hot foods and cold foods may trigger quick, sharp jabs of pain or a lingering toothache. Next time you get the urge for ice, chew some sugarless gum instead.

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2…Playing Sports With No Mouth Guard

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Whether you play football, hockey, or any other contact sport, don’t get in the game without a mouth guard. This is a piece of molded plastic that protects the upper row of teeth. Without it, your teeth could get chipped or even knocked out when the action gets rough. Self-fitting mouth guards may be purchased at a store, or you can have one custom made by your dentist.

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3…Bedtime Bottles

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It’s never too early to protect teeth. Giving a baby a bedtime bottle of juice, milk, or formula, can put new teeth on a path to decay. The baby may become used to falling asleep with the bottle in his or her mouth, bathing the teeth in sugars overnight. It’s best to keep bottles out of the crib.

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4…Tongue Piercings

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Tongue piercings may be trendy, but biting down on the metal stud can crack a tooth. Lip piercings pose a similar risk. And when metal rubs against the gums, it can cause gum damage that may lead to tooth loss. The mouth is also a haven for bacteria, so piercings raise the risk of infections and sores. Bottom line, discuss the health risks with your dentist first.

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5…Grinding Teeth

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Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can wear teeth down over time. It is most often caused by stress and sleeping habits. This makes it hard to control. Avoiding hard foods during the day can reduce pain and damage from this habit. Wearing a mouth guard at night can prevent the damage caused by grinding while sleeping.

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6…Cough Drops

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Just because cough drops are sold in the medicine aisle doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Most are loaded with sugar. So after soothing your throat with a lozenge, be sure to brush well. Whether the sugar comes from a cough drop or a hard candy, it reacts with the sticky plaque that coats your teeth. Then bacteria in the plaque convert the sugar into an acid that eats away at tooth enamel. Hello, cavities.

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7…Gummy Candy

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All sugary treats promote tooth decay, but some candies are harder to bear. Gummies stick in the teeth, keeping the sugar and resulting acids in contact with your enamel for hours. If your day just isn’t the same without a gummy critter, pop a couple during a meal instead of as a separate snack. More saliva is produced during meals, which helps rinse away candy bits and acids.

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7…Sweet Soda

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Candy isn’t the only culprit when it comes to added sugar. Sodas can have up to 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving. To add insult to injury, sodas also contain phosphoric and citric acids, which eat away at tooth enamel. Diet soft drinks let you skip the sugar, but they may have even more acid in the form of the artificial sweeteners.

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8…Opening Stuff With Your Teeth

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Opening bottle caps or plastic packaging with your teeth may be convenient, but this is one habit that makes dentists cringe. Using your teeth as tools can cause them to crack or chip. Instead, keep scissors and bottle openers handy. Bottom line, your teeth should only be used for eating.

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9…Sports Drinks

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There’s no doubt a cold sports drink is refreshing after a good workout. But these drinks are usually high in sugar. Like soda or candy, sugary sports drinks create an acid attack on the enamel of your teeth. Drinking them frequently can lead to decay. A better way to stay hydrated at the gym is to chug sugar-free, calorie-free water.

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10…Fruit Juice

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Fruit juice is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, but unfortunately most juices are also loaded with sugar. Some juices can have as much sugar per serving as soda. For example, there are only 10 more grams of sugar in orange soda than in orange juice. Fruits are naturally sweet, so look for juice that has no added sugar. You can also reduce the sugar content by diluting juice with some water.

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11…Potato Chips

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The bacteria in plaque will also break down starchy foods into acid. This acid can attack the teeth for the next 20 minutes — even longer if the food is stuck between the teeth or you snack often. You might want to floss after eating potato chips or other starchy foods that tend to get stuck in the teeth.

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12…Constant Snacking

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Snacking produces less saliva than a meal, leaving food bits in your teeth for hours longer. Avoid snacking too frequently, and stick to snacks that are low in sugar and starch — for example, carrot sticks.

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13…Chewing on Pencils

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Do you ever chew on your pencil when concentrating on work or studies? Like crunching on ice, this habit can cause teeth to chip or crack. Sugarless gum is a better option when you feel the need to chew. It will trigger the flow of saliva, which can make teeth stronger and protect against enamel-eating acids.

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14…Drinking Coffee

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Coffee’s dark color and acidity can cause yellowing of the teeth over time. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest stains to treat with various whitening methods. Talk to your dentist if you’re concerned about discoloration of your teeth.

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Cigarettes, as well as other tobacco products, can stain teeth and cause them to fall out as a result of gum disease. Tobacco can also cause cancer of the mouth, lips, and tongue. If you were looking for one more reason to quit, think of your smile.

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16…Drinking Red Wine

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The acids in wine eat away at tooth enamel, creating rough spots that make teeth more vulnerable to staining. Red wine also contains a deep pigment called chromogen and tannins, which help the color stick to the teeth. This combination makes it easy for the wine’s red color to stay with you long after your glass is empty.

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17…Drinking White Wine

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You might think sticking to white wine would spare your teeth. But the acids still weaken the enamel, leaving the teeth porous and vulnerable to staining from other beverages, such as coffee. Swishing with water after drinking or using toothpaste with a mild whitening agent can fight the staining effects of red and white wines.

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19…Binge Eating

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Binge eating often involves excessive amounts of sweets, which can lead to tooth decay. Binging and purging (bulimia nervosa) can do even more damage to dental health. The strong acids found in vomit can erode teeth, making them brittle and weak. These acids also cause bad breath. Bulimia can lead to a variety of serious health problems, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you have been purging.

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20…Do not eat concrete,bicycles,glass,metal,bricks or elephants as they will effect not just your teeth but your general well being

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Henry Sapiecha


No-drill dentistry stops decay, reducing need for fillings, says Sydney Uni study

Associate Professor Wendell Evans from the faculty of dentistry, Sydney University at Westmead.

Tooth decay occurs slowly enough to be stopped, even reversed, reducing the need for fillings by 80 per cent in high-risk patients, a new study by Sydney University says.

The results are good news for the estimated 15 per cent of Australians who avoid treatment because they have a phobia about going to the dentist

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Early decay can be stopped and reversed before cavities form, the study says. Photo: Luis Ascui

Knowing they wouldn’t face the drill was important to patients coping with the phobia, said Associate Professor Wendell Evans, lead investigator of the seven-year oral health study into “no-drill dentistry”.

He said the results signalled a need for Australian dentistry to move away from the traditional “fill and drill” approach.

“It’s unnecessary for patients to have fillings because they’re not required in many cases of dental decay,” he said.

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The white patches, such as those on the two front teeth, indicate decay that can be stopped. Photos: Sydney University

For a long time, it was believed that tooth decay occurred rapidly and the best way to stop the rot was to remove it, even in earlier stages, and to fill the cavity.

“However, 50 years of research studies have shown that decay is not always progressive and develops more slowly than was previously believed.

“For example, it takes an average of four to eight years for decay to progress from the tooth’s outer layer [enamel] to the inner layer [dentine].

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“That is plenty of time for the decay to be detected and treated before it becomes a cavity and requires a filling,” Professor Evans said.

“A tooth should only be drilled and filled where an actual hole in the tooth [cavity] is already evident,” he said.

The study was published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology on Monday.

Researchers compared more than 1000 patients at 22 dental practices in NSW and the ACT. Some were in areas with fluoridated water, some without.

Half were treated conventionally. The others were treated using the Caries Management System, a preventive approach used on teeth where decay has been detected but has yet to form a hole.

The new approach included:

▪ Application by dentists of high concentration fluoride varnish on teeth showing signs of early decay.

▪ Advice on how to brush teeth better.

▪ Restriction of between-meal snacks and beverages containing added sugar.

▪ Monitoring according to the level of risk.

After seven years, the need for fillings was reduced by 30 to 50 per cent in average patients using preventive care compared with patients treated with conventional methods.

High-risk patients – those who required as many as two fillings a year – had an 80 per cent reduction, Professor Evans said.

There was plenty of research to illustrate that fluoride and other preventive measures reduced decay, which hadn’t been translated into practice.

Dentists had became institutionalised to deal with decay by drilling and filling, he said.

He called for prevention to be introduced as a new area of specialisation for dentists so there was a career pathway.

The cost of the no-drill approach is about the same for most people, and a little more for high-risk patients.

Phobia of the dentist’s drill is so common that it stops people from visiting the dentist.

A new study by King’s College London in the British Dental Journal found an average of five talking therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy) visits was effective in reducing or eliminating fear.

Three-quarters of the group studied had a “dental phobia”, while the rest had a specific fear of one aspect of dentistry, such as injections or the drill.

Of all the patients, 79 went on to have dental treatment without the need for sedation, while 6 per cent had their dental treatment under sedation.

Eithne Irving, deputy chief executive of the Australian Dental Association, said: “Research such as this contributes greatly to the evidence base that underpins contemporary dental care in Australia and the ADA will be promoting these findings among its members.

“Professor Wendell is correct in saying that prevention is a key plank in the fight against dental disease and this is why the ADA continues its efforts on oral health promotion through activities such as Dental Health Week and community access to fluoridated water supplies.

“Preventive dentistry is the backbone of modern dental practice and this research will provide further evidence of the benefits of this approach for patients.

“At the end of the day, there is no substitute for patients having regular check-ups and practising good oral hygiene behaviours such as brushing twice daily, flossing once a day and reducing their exposure to sugary foods and drinks.

“Prevention is always better than a cure.”


Henry Sapiecha

How vigorous teeth flossing caused woman’s knee infection

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A US woman’s vigorous flossing routine lead to a nasty bacterial infection in her prosthetic knee.

Dentists often advise that flossing is essential for healthy teeth.

But a 65-year-old US woman took this advice a little too far and ended up in hospital, but not with an injury you might expect.

The woman, who had undergone a knee-replacement five years earlier, arrived at a local hospital in Wisconsin with a swollen and inflamed right knee.

When doctors took a sample of the fluid around the joint they discovered it was infected with a bacteria typically found in the mouth, Streptococcus gordonii.

While this seemed unexpected at first, the doctors then learned that the women had started a “vigorous dental flossing regimen prior to the onset of symptoms”.

It appears that by flossing so vigorously that her gums bled, the S. gordonii travelled through her bloodstream to the knee prosthesis.

Prosthetics do not have an immune system, making them easy targets for bacteria to grow a biofilm around them. Infections around prosthetics are mostly commonly caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis.

In a case report published in the British Medical Journal Case Reports doctors said this was the first case of oral S. gordonii being linked to an infection of a prosthesis in the US.

To treat the bacterial infection, doctors opened up the women’s knee and cleaned her replacement knee. She was also placed on long-term antibiotics.

Ala Dababneh, an infectious disease specialist involved with the case, told Live Science the event was extremely rare and people with prosthetics should continue flossing their teeth.

“I don’t want people to worry that just flossing is going to cause them an infection in their prosthetic joint,” said Dr Dababneh, from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Henry Sapiecha

Low-power laser triggers stem cells to repair teeth

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New research indicates that it may one day be possible for us to regrow teeth … with some help from a laser

Ranking among the X-Men probably isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, but who wouldn’t want their uncanny ability to regenerate lost bone or tissue? New research into tooth repair and stem cell biology, from a cross-institution team led by David Mooney of Harvard’s Wyss Institute, may bring such regeneration one step closer to reality – or at the very least, give us hope that we can throw away those nasty dentures.

The researchers employed a low-power laser to trigger human dental stem cells to form dentin, a hard bone-like tissue that is one of four major components of teeth (the others being enamel, pulp, and cementum). This kind of low-level light therapy has previously been used to remove or stimulate hair growth and to rejuvenate skin cells, but the mechanisms were not well understood, results varied, and evidence of its efficacy was largely anecdotal.

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The new work is the first to document the molecular mechanism involved, thus laying the foundations for controlled treatment protocols in not only restorative dentistry but also avenues like bone regeneration and wound healing. “The scientific community is actively exploring a host of approaches to using stem cells for tissue regeneration efforts,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber. “Dave [Mooney] and his team have added an innovative, noninvasive, and remarkably simple but powerful tool to the toolbox.”

To test the team’s hypothesis, Praveen Arany, an assistant clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Health, drilled holes in the molars of rats and mice, then treated them with low-dose lasers and temporary caps. Around 12 weeks later, tests confirmed that the laser treatments triggered enhanced dentin formation.

Performing dentistry on rat teeth takes extreme precision and is actually harder than the same procedure on human teeth (Image: ames Weaver, Harvard’s Wyss Institute)

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Further experiments were conducted on microbial cultures in the laboratory, where they found that a regulatory cell protein called transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGF-β1) was activated in a chemical domino effect that in turn caused the stem cells to form dentin. The good news there is that TGF-β1 is more or less ubiquitous, with key roles in many biological processes – such as immune response, wound healing, development, and malignancies.

This means we could one day see the technique used to do far more than help repair teeth. But first it needs to clear planned human clinical trials, so for now you’ll have to make do with dentures, canes and all manner of other prosthetics while the likes of Wolverine prance around with self-healing bodies.

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A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: Wyss Institute at Harvard

Henry Sapiecha