Tuesday, August 14, 2012
IS THIS, FINALLY, THE END OF DENTAL CAVITIES?
I have a dentist appointment tomorrow. Twice a year I have my teeth cleaned. It must work, for I haven't had a cavity nor extraction for a couple of decades now.
The practice of dentistry, though, will soon not be the same, for José Córdoba from Yale University and Erich Astudillo from the University of Chile have designed a molecule, called Keep 32 (for your 32 teeth) to make you cavity proof. This product can be added to gum, mouthwash or toothpaste to protect you for hours from streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that converts sugars into lactic acid which erodes your tooth enamel. The product will be on the market in 14 to 18 months. Mind you, various forms of other bacteria convert what you eat to lactic acid, which is crucially important in the digestion process, so one of the studies will need to ascertain that the whole cycle is not seriously compromised.
Last year, Wenyuan Shi of UCLA announced something called the "smart bomb" mouthwash to do exactly the same thing. The two processes are sufficiently different that you will have at least two options to consider.
Pre-school students seeing a dentist for the first time show ten or more cavities. Twenty percent of adult have an untreated cavity.
So is this the end of dentistry? Hardly, for tooth decay is merely one problem. Others include:
1. Bad breath, which is largely caused by bacteria in your mouth. Thus, those developments above should also mostly cure halitosis. However, how will the various strains of leuconostoc bacteria be affected, for some of these are responsible for bad smells.
2. Gum diseases are linked to heart attacks, strokes and birth ailments. Periodontal problems also cause you to lose your teeth. Bacteria is not necessarily the primary cause, as genetics, stress, medications, grinding of teeth and diabetes can also be blamed.
3. Oral cancer is serious, but curable on early diagnosis. Worldwide, 300,000 cases occur annually.
4. Mouth sores can be caused by almost everything, but the control of bacteria and viruses (not sure if those two treatments mentioned above will help with the herpes simplex virus) should help.
5. Tooth erosion is caused by acids, so this problem should be alleviated by the above.
6. Tooth sensitivity can take many forms, but cold temperatures causing pain in the brain is common. After I began brushing every so often with Sensodyne, a desensitizing toothpaste, I can now more comfortably eat shaved ice.
7. Crooked teeth can be corrected by orthodontics. Helps to do this before you become an adult, and by age 7 seems to be the practice.
In the meantime, awaiting Keep 32 or the Smart Bomb, you might want to consider the following:
1. Don't only brush your teeth. Certainly your gums, but also entire mouth: cheeks, roof, tongue, etc.
2. I've had two dentists tell me that I should brush really hard. Apparently, it is wiser now to brush SOFTLY in small circles.
3. You'll love this one. Germs in your mouth grow at a rate of 20 billion per hour. Consider brushing 5-7 times daily.
4. Floss regularly, and on both sides of each entry, not just down and up.
5. Rinsing with mouthwash instead of brushing is inadequate.
6. Water is fine with your meal, but all other fluids, including tea, can be hard on your gums.
7. If you have any pain, go see your dentist.
8. Don't skip dental appointments. (Of course, this list was no doubt drawn together by dentists.)
Tropical Storm Kai-Tak, now at 65 MPH, will brush the Philippines, strengthen into a typhoon, and head straight for Hong Kong: