Can nanotechnology replace dental fillings?

Last week many media outlets reported that nanotechnology made a gel that can regenerate teeth and make dental fillings obsolete. Is this true?

Root canal instrumentsA group of French scientists within the field of nanotechnology recently made big headlines all over the world, when they published a study about a nanotechnology gel that could regenerate teeth. The research was by several media outlets interpreted to mean that dental fillings would soon be made obsolete by this new breakthrough in nanotechnology. It was reported that the gel could just be added to the cavity of the tooth and that the tooth would then repair itself without ever needing a filling. Is this true? Is nanotechnology really this close to replacing dental fillings as the primary treatment of tooth cavities?

The fact of the matter in this case is that nanotechnology is not about to replace dental fillings. The research was about how to regenerate the pulp inside the tooth and not the crown itself. The pulp of the tooth consists of nerves and blood vessels. It is a live tissue in contrast to the tooth enamel which consists of approximately 96% inorganic material. Sometimes the dental pulp becomes infected due to deep cavities or trauma. When the dental pulp becomes infected it will start to die and so far the only treatment of this condition has been to remove the dental pulp and replace it with a soft material called gutta-percha. After such a root canal treatment the tooth will be dead and is now weaker than before. It will often be necessary to protect the now more fragile tooth with a dental crown to prevent it from breaking or cracking.

What the French nanotechnology researchers might have discovered is a way to regenerate the dying pulp so that the tooth won’t have to die. By using a multilayered, nano-sized film — only 1/50,000th the thickness of a human hair containing a substance called alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone, or alpha-MSH the nanotechnology scientists have proved that they can fight inflammation and increase the number of dental pulp fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are the cells inside the dental pulp that regenerate the pulp fibres and are the main type of cell found in dental pulp.

Hopefully this new breakthrough within nanotechonology – which has so far only been tested on laboratory rats – will in time reduce the need for root canal therapy.

Help for those suffering from dry mouth

A dry mouth can cause much frustration and pain for those suffering from it. What causes dry mouth and what can you do about it?

Are you suffering from dry mouth?A dry mouth can cause much frustration and pain for those suffering from it, since your saliva is important for chewing, tasting, swallowing and speaking. Because saliva also contains enzymes that protect your teeth, dry mouth leads to an increased risk of cavities and other oral health problems such as bad breath. For those wearing dentures, a dry mouth can also affect the stability of the dentures, since saliva normally works as a natural adhesive.

There are many reasons why people suffer from dry mouth. Among the most common are:

  • Medicine: Many kinds of medicine have dry mouth as a side effect – e.g. diuretics, anti-depressives and muscle relaxants.
  • Depression, anxiety and nervousness often result in dry mouth.
  • Snoring at night or breathing through your mouth during the day dries out your mouth.
  • Ageing: Dry mouth often occurs naturally as you grow older.
  • De-hydration: Dry mouth can be a sign that you’re not drinking enough fluid.

Some of the most popular advice for relieving problems caused by dry mouth are:

Oral hygiene:

  • Make sure to brush your teeth after each meal in order to protect your teeth from caries.
  • Regular check-ups: Visit your dentist or dental hygienist often (e.g. every 3 months) for a check-up.

Stimulating saliva flow:

  • Chewing gum: Chewing gum increases your saliva flow. Just make sure the gum is SUGAR FREE. Some kinds of chewing gum even contain fluoride for extra protection.
  • Eat fresh pineapple or use a little lemon juice or vinegar on your food.
  • Drink fruit juice or water containing fresh lemon juice. When eating or drinking sour foods, make sure to rinse with water afterwards in order to protect your teeth from the acid.

Keep you mouth from drying out:

  • Always carry a bottle or a glass of water, so you can rinse your mouth often,
  • Drink a thin oatmeal soup.
  • Use artificial saliva or OraMoist Dry Mouth Patch.
  • Ask at your local farmacy for other remedies against dry mouth.

Avoid:

  • Smoking – tobacco dries out the mucous membranes.
  • Eating sour foods between meals in order to protect your teeth from the acid.

If you think your medicine might be the cause of your dry mouth, try speaking to your doctor about a possible change in medication. If there is nothing to be done about the causes of your dry mouth, mention the problem to your dentist or dental hygienist. They will be more than happy to give you advice.

Most people have mercury in their blood – is it harmful?

A new report from the CDC shows that most people have measurable levels of mercury in their blood and urine. What are the dangers?

chemistryA new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals that scientists have found measurable levels of mercury in most of the 8500 persons who recently took part in a national health and nutrition survey. In the comprehensive research program scientists analyzed blood and urine samples in order to measure the total mercury content of the large number of participants.

The report from the CDC concluded that:

* Most of the participants had a measurable amount of mercury in their bodies.

* Mercury levels tended to increase with age.

* All blood mercury levels were less than 33 µg/L.

* Blood and urine mercury in the US population were similar to levels seen in other developed countries.

Although the mercury levels caused by dental fillings are not thought to be harmful to the human body, the CDC scientists admitted that determining what constitutes “safe” levels is still a question that needs to be researched more.

Determining safe levels of mercury exposure is of utmost importance since even small amounts of blood mercury content is suspected of causing neurodevelopmental effects in children. These effects include mental retardation, ADHD, autism and other neurological disorders.

The toxicity of mercury

There are different kinds of mercury, which are not all thought to be equally harmful to humans. Elemental mercury is found in many of the goods that we are exposed to every day such as thermometers, some light bulbs and dental amalgams. Elemental mercury is also used in industry and mining where it gets into the air when coal and other fossil fuels are burned. When we breathe in air that contains mercury vapour, elemental mercury enters our bodies.

In the body, elemental mercury usually forms inorganic compounds. Elemental mercury has not been proven harmful in small doses. However, very high levels of vapour concentrations can lead to severe lung damage, and exposure to low vapour concentrations over a long period of time can cause neurological disturbances, memory problems, skin rash, and kidney abnormalities.

Methyl mercury – the real cause for concern

The kind of mercury which causes the most concern is the kind which is called methyl mercury. Methyl mercury is formed, when microorganism in the marine environment “eat” and metabolize elemental mercury. These microorganisms and their methyl mercury content are then eaten by larger fish and other organisms and the methyl mercury is thus accumulated as it travels up through the food chain. At the top of the food chain we, the humans, are exposed to the methyl mercury when we eat fish or shellfish. Methyl mercury is especially harmful for pregnant women, because of its ability to pass through the placenta into the developing fetus where it might cause neurological damage.

Mercury from dental fillings is thus not as harmful to humans while it is in the mouth (elemental mercury) as it becomes when it ends up in the environment and is transformed into methyl mercury. As neurological defects in children continue to be on the increase however, scientists continue to study the toxicity of chemicals such as mercury and to question the existing “safe” levels of exposure to these.

Source:
“National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.”
CDC, National Center for Environmental Health, 2009.
US Department of Health and Human Services.

Bad breath can be caused by constipation

Up to 25% of all cases of bad breath can be caused by constipation. Researchers point to a healthier diet and regular exercise as the solution.

Bad breath can be caused by constipationOften, people who are made aware of their bad breath are surprised, because they experience no problems with their oral health and maintain a good oral hygiene. New research from Denmark offers an explanation why many people with good oral health suffer from bad breath. The research indicates that up to 25% of all cases of bad breath can be caused by constipation. Researchers point to a healthier lifestyle as the solution.

Constipation and bad breath – the reasons

Constipation causes an accumulation of undigested food in the bowels and the problem is thought to be caused by a passive lifestyle with a lack of exercise. Many people who suffer from constipation have a job that requires them to sit all day, which does not do much good for the digestion. When combined with a diet low in fibres and a general lack of exercise, constipation is very likely to result which again causes the bad breath.

Constipation and bad breath – the solution

If people are to solve their problems with constipation and bad breath, they need to improve the function of their bowels. In order to solve the problem with constipation, doctors recommend regular exercise, a diet rich in fibres and low in fat and a habit of drinking water every hour.

When dentists are faced with patients who suffer from bad breath without having any problems with oral hygiene or oral health, they are recommended to ask the patient whether he or she has been experiencing problems with digestion or stomach aches, has felt bloated or in any other way uncomfortable or tired. If the answer is yes, the patient might be advised to see a doctor who specializes in intestinal problems.

Why your dentist needs to know about your medicine

Why do you need to inform your dentist about your medicine and what kind of medicine is it especially important for your dentist to know about?

The dentist needs to know about your medicineMany patients forget to tell their dentist about their use of medicine. Others do not realize that this information might influence their dentist’s choice of treatment and/or the results of it. Why do you need to inform your dentist about your medicine and what kind of medicine is it especially important for your dentist to know about?

Most medicines have an effect not only on the area of your body that they are supposed to treat, but on your whole organism. Many side effects of medicine can be seen in the mouth e.g. as dryness or increased bleeding. An example of medicine that it is especially important for you to inform your dentist about is anticoagulants (or blood thinners). Blood thinners are administered to prevent blood clots, but this medicine can cause problems during dental treatment, because it makes your gums bleed more after for example extractions or dental cleanings.

Some dentists will recommend their patients to stop taking the anticoagulant medicine just before dental treatment in order to prevent bleeding, but newer research has shown that the risk of stopping the medicine intake temporarily is too high compared with the danger of the bleeding caused by the medicine.

Instead of advising the patients to halt their medicine intake temporarily, the dentist might therefore take extra precautions during and after treatment to make sure that the bleeding has stopped before the patient leaves the clinic. When choosing what kind of pain killers to recommend to the patient, the dentist should also be aware that some pain killers enhance the effect of the blood thinning medicine.

If you are in doubt about whether your medicine is important for your dental treatment, talk to your dentist about it next time you see him. In fact. make it a habit always to tell your dentist when you have started taking new medicine or if your dosage has been changed.

Scientists make first bio-engineered tooth ever!

Imagine if your dentist were able to make a new tooth grow out of your jaw! This sci-fi vision might soon be within reach…

tooth-painImagine that, instead of replacing lost teeth with bridges and implants, your dentist would be able to make a new tooth grow out of your jaw! It sounds like science fiction, but the vision might not be out of reach.

A group of Japanese scientists have recently succeeded in making the first fully functional, bio-engineered organ ever – and it’s a tooth! The key to making these ‘real’ teeth is the use of stem cells. Stem cells are special because they have the potential to develop into different tissue and organs.

It has long been the dream of scientists to make stem cells grow into organs that can be transplanted into patients in need. Previously, researchers have succeeded in making different tissues out of just one kind of stem cell. In order to make fully functioning, three dimensional organs, more than one kind of stem cell would need to be combined.

In making the bio-engineered tooth, scientists figured out how to combine two different kinds of stem cells – stem cells developing into inner and outer surfaces and stem cells developing into blood vessels and other soft tissues. The two kinds of stem cells combined into a tooth germ which was then transplanted into the jaw of mice in place of recently extracted teeth.

Already after a couple of weeks, the new tooth erupted through the gum and after 49 days, it was fully erupted. The tooth was tested as to hardness and function and was found to be fully functional and up to the standard of natural teeth.

What this new discovery will mean for the dental profession and for regenerative therapy in general is still unclear and many questions need to be answered before the technology can be used on humans. So it might still be long before you can order your own bio-engineered tooth at the dentist.

Is obesity caused by oral bacteria?

Is obesity an infectious disease? British scientists have found that the presence of a certain oral bacteria is higher in women suffering from obesity.

Can oral bacteria cause obesity?A group of British scientists have asked – and possibly answered – this question through a study of 500 women. Around 60% of the women in the study suffered from clinical obesity. When examining saliva samples from the obese women and comparing them with samples from a control group of average weight women, scientists found that the presence of a certain species of oral bacteria – selenomonas noxia – was significantly higher in 98% of the overweight women.

The exact connection between the oral bacteria and obesity is still unclear. “It is uncertain whether people may become obese due to changes in the bacteria in their mouths or whether these changes occur as a result of obesity,” said Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation. “What impact changing the bacterial make up may have on helping to reduce obesity is certainly worth additional research.”

The oral bacteria, Selenomonas noxia, has previously been connected with gum disease and poor dental health. Scientists think it likely that this oral bacteria could serve as a biological indicator of a developing overweight condition. As possible connections between oral bacteria and obesity, it has also been speculated whether certain bacteria may have the ability to increase the appetite of individuals and make the body store up nourishment from food, causing a weight increase.

There has previously been found connections between oral health and other conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Obesity has also been identified as a risk factor in the development of oral disease.

There is a clear connection between obesity and oral health in the fact that food products with a high sugar content have the potential to cause both obesity and dental cavities. Whether there are further connections between the two conditions will be researched further.

Do you have the flu? Can you visit the dentist?

What if your flu coincides with an appointment at the dentist? Should you still go? Here are some things to consider before making your decision.

Hygienic standards protect against spreading the flu at the dentistIt is not uncommon for people to suffer from a flu several times every year. Common symptoms of respiratory infections and flus include sneezing, coughing, secretion from the nose, soar throat, stuffy nose and trouble breathing. Often, your whole body is affected and you will experience muscle pain, headaches, nausea and maybe even a fever. But what if your flu coincides with an appointment at the dentist? Should you still go? Here are some things to consider before making your decision:

Is it contagious?

It is probably no surprise to anyone that the flu is contagious. But what is the risk of spreading or contracting a flu in the dentist’s chair? In most countries there are laws requiring dentists to adhere to certain hygiene standards. According to these standards, dentists must desinfect the clinic and sterilize all instruments between each patient. Dentists will also in most cases choose to wear gloves, surgical masks and ‘glasses’ in order to protect both themselves and the patients. If these hygienic standards are followed, the risk of spreading viral and infectious diseases at the dental clinic is minimized. As a further precaution, the dentist can avoid using water spray and make sure to open the windows between patients.

In some cases – e.g. epidemics such as the swine flu – doctors might advise all patients to stay at home while suffering from the flu in order to avoid spreading the disease. This advice should be respected and the dentist will be understanding if you make sure to cancel your appointment as early as possible.

Can it be done?

Will it be possible for the dentist to examine you and/or treat you in your present condition? If you are having a cold or a flu, you might be suffering from a stuffy nose. During dental treatment you might not be able to breathe through your mouth. Consider, therefore, whether your condition will make it too difficult for the dentist to perform the needed treatment.

If you are still in doubt whether or not to visit the dentist with a flu, you can choose to call your dental office, explain your symptoms and ask their advice.

Are your teeth sensitive? What can you do?

If you suffer from sensitive teeth, you are not alone. Sensitive teeth is a very common problem, which affects most people now and then. Where does the pain come from and what can be done about it?

Are your teeth sensitive?If you suffer from sensitive teeth, you are not alone. Sensitive teeth is a very common problem, which affects most people now and then. Some only feel pain from their teeth when they eat something very cold or drink something very hot. For others the teeth are so sensitive, that even a cold wind on their teeth can be a very painful experience. Why are teeth sometimes sensitive and what can be done about it?

If you experience any kind of pain from your teeth, you should always consult your dentist to make sure that the pain is not caused by more serious problems such as cavities or periodontal disease. If your dentist has already ruled out these causes, you will probably be diagnosed with sensitive teeth. Teeth become sensitive when the nerve inside the tooth is stimulated. The nerve of the tooth does not distinguish between hot, cold or any other stimulus. In whatever way the nerve of your tooth is affected, it will feel the same: painful. Normally your tooth enamel offers the necessary protection and your teeth shouldn’t be sensitive to cold, warm, sweet or sour. When for some reason a part of your tooth is not protected by enamel, the result is sensitive teeth. There can be several reasons, why a person develops sensitive teeth:

Exposed tooth roots

Normally the crown of your tooth is protected by enamel and the root surfaces are protected by the gums. But sometimes the gum line recedes, leaving your root surface exposed and sensitive. This can happen if your brushing technique has been incorrect for a while:

  • Do you use a hard toothbrush?
  • Are you a little rough, when you brush?
  • Do you use circular movements or back-and-forward movements with your toothbrush, when you brush?

The correct technique for brushing your teeth is to use a medium soft toothbrush and not press it too hard against the gums. If the brushes on your toothbrush are bending outwards rather than standing straight, this is a sign that you need to be less rough. If your gums turn white while you brush on the edge between the teeth and the gums, this is another sign that you are using too much pressure. The correct brushing technique also involves small circular movements rather than straight movements back and forward across the teeth. Your dentist or dental hygienist can instruct you on the proper brushing technique.

Another common reason for exposed tooth roots is periodontal disease, which causes the bone and the gum to recede. Gums that have receded cannot return to their place, so it is important to prevent them from receding in the first place.

Worn teeth

Teeth that are worn can be very sensitive as well. Some people grind or clench their teeth, when they are stressed or while they sleep. Teeth grinding wears down the teeth and makes them sensitive. The first layer to be worn off is the enamel. When the enamel is gone, the next layer (called dentine) is exposed. Dentine is not as hard as the enamel and does not offer the same protection. This might cause your teeth to become sensitive.

Cracked teeth

If your teeth are sensitive, but there are no exposed root surfaces or signs of wear, the reason might be a crack in the tooth. Most people have small cracks in their teeth and never feel pain from them. For others, even a tiny crack can make a tooth extremely sensitive.

What can be done?

Proper oral hygiene is a must in order to treat your sensitive teeth. Learn how to brush properly and thoroughly without causing damage to your teeth and gums. Even if your gums have already receded, keeping the root surfaces plaque free is an important step toward making them pain free. If the root surfaces are covered in plaque, they will be more sensitive, since the plaque produces acid which etches away on the root surface. If, on the other hand, the root surface is clean, the surface will be able to create a protective layer and will be less sensitive.

Use the right toothpaste

Toothpaste containing fluoride helps protect your teeth. The fluoride combines with the calcium in your saliva to ‘harden’ the surface of your teeth. Some people even find it very helpful to leave a layer of toothpaste on the sensitive spots on their teeth after they have brushed.

It is also possible to buy desensitizing toothpastes, which help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve.

What the dentist can do

If the more simple measures mentioned above do not work, your dentist might be able to help you in other ways. A fluoride gel can be applied in the clinic or a hard sealer (usually made of a plastic material) can be applied over the sensitive part of your tooth in order to protect it mechanically. If you have a very sensitive root surface, which has also become concave from brushing, a filling can be laid which will offer protection and make the tooth less sensitive.

It is worth noting, however, that if your brushing technique continues to be incorrect, neither varnishes nor fillings will last very long before you have brushed them away and your teeth are sensitive again.

If the reason for your sensitive teeth is wear from grinding or clenching your teeth, you might need to think about why you have this habit. If the reason is stress, consider doing something about the stress. If it is just a bad habit and it is not possible to stop, you can have your dentist make a mouth guard. A mouth guard will not take away your habit, but it will at least protect your teeth from being worn and increasingly sensitive from it.

Other more radical measures against sensitive teeth is capping of the tooth or even root canal therapy, which takes out the nerve of the tooth and puts and end to the pain altogether.

Normal dentures or snap-in’s?

Making dentures ‘stay put’ is a difficult task for any dentist. If you are experiencing problems with loose dentures, snap-in’s might be the solution. Read more here…

Normal dentures or snap-insWhy lower dentures don’t stay put

One of the great challenges when making a denture is to make it ‘stay put’. Especially a full denture in the lower jaw often has problems with retention. There are several reasons for this:

1) A denture has the best retention, if it fits around the jaw bone. The bone in the lower jaw is often too flat for this and the denture might slide around or tip on top of the gum.

2) The upper full denture has the advantage of a sort of ‘suction’ between the denture and the palate, because the denture covers the whole palate. In contrast, the denture in the lower jaw can only be U-shaped because of the tongue. As a result, the contact area between the denture and the gum is relatively small and there can be no suction between the denture and the gum.

Many people have no problems with their full lower denture, but for others the inadequate retention of the denture causes problems when speaking and chewing food. For these a ‘snap-in’ denture might be a good solution.

Snap-in dentures

The ideal conditions for a snap-in denture is, if the roots of a couple of your natural teeth (preferably the canine teeth) are still left in the jaw to attach the denture onto. But even if you have none of your natural teeth left, it is still possible for you to have a snap-in denture made by implanting titanium roots into the jaw.

Snap-in dentures and implants

The procedure of making an implant is not as complicated as it sounds. First, a little hole is drilled in the bone and a titanium screw is placed in the hole. After a few months the bone has healed so well around the screw that it is completely attached to the bone and it is stable enough to support a denture.

The snap-in concept

Whether you have natural roots of implant roots, the snap-in system works the same way: A little ball-shaped attachment is added on top of the root. On the denture is attached a little lock that fits perfectly together with the attachment on the root. When the denture is placed over the root, the attachments snap in place and the denture will stay put.

How many ‘snaps’?

Normally a minium of two original roots or implant roots are required to achieve a good result with a lower denture. For the upper denture more than two roots are needed for retention.