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.

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.

Regular cleaning, deep cleaning and root planning – what do they include?

A dental cleaning is much more than a superficial removal of plaque and tartar. Also, the reasons for offering you a dental cleaning go far beyond cosmetic considerations. In the dental clinic the word ‘cleaning’ actually covers a range of treatments all designed to help you maintain good dental health. This article will cover the most used terms, explain what exactly is meant by them and discuss the benefits of regular dental cleanings?

Dental cleaning for beautiful teeth

A dental cleaning is much more than a superficial removal of plaque and tartar. Also, the reasons for offering you a dental cleaning go far beyond cosmetic considerations. In the dental clinic the word ‘cleaning’ actually covers a range of treatments all designed to help you maintain good dental health. This article will cover the most used terms, explain what exactly is meant by them and discuss the benefits of regular dental cleanings?

A regular cleaning

A regular cleaning is the standard treatment when the gums and bone structure are healthy. A regular cleaning includes the removal of plaque, calculus and stain from the crown and root surfaces of your teeth. Superficial stains on the teeth can in most cases be effectively removed through regular cleaning and polishing. Not all people are equally prone to building up layers of calculus on their teeth. Your daily dental hygiene routines are a very important factor in this regard, but your diet and the chemical make-up of your saliva also plays a part. Calculus mostly builds up on the inside of your lower front teeth and on the outside of your upper molars, where your major saliva glands are situated. A regular cleaning will therefore often primarily be focused on these places.

Deep cleaning

A deep cleaning is offered when periodontal disease has resulted in loss of the bone that supports the teeth. During the oral examination your dentist will already have registered which teeth are in need of a deep cleaning. The reason that certain teeth need a deep cleaning is that the periodontal pocket which results from periodontitis is too deep to be kept clean through daily toothbrushing. It is therefore necessary to clean the pocket through professional cleaning in order to prevent the periodontal disease from worsening. Your dentist will normally charge extra for each tooth that needs a deep cleaning, since this requires extra time and effort.

Root planning

Root planning is  often combined with the dental cleaning and used in connection with periodontitis. It is a specific treatment that removes the roughened cementum and surface dentin on the root. A root surface which is not smooth is especially receptive to build-ups of calculus, microorganisms and their toxins. A root surface that needs root planning can be visible in your mouth, because your gum has receded or it can be ‘hidden’ in the periodontal pocket in the case of periodontal disease. The crown of the tooth is covered by enamel which is the hardest material in your body and thus offers a good protection against cavities. A root surface does not have this kind of protection and root surfaces that are visible in the mouth are at greater risk of developing cavities – especially if the surface is not smooth. A professional cleaning and root planning is therefore especially beneficial in this case.

Your dentist or dental hygienist should keep you updated on your periodontal status and discuss with you, what kind of cleaning is necessary in your case. It should also be possible to give you an idea of the price of the cleaning before treatment is started.

Dental crowns – do we really need them?

Your tooth has been doing just fine with fillings for many years, but suddenly your dentist says that you need a crown. You shutter when you hear the price. Can it be true? Why does your tooth suddenly need a crown? And does it really have to be so expensive?

Do you need a crown?Your teeth have been doing just fine with fillings for many years, but suddenly your dentist says that you need one or maybe even several dental crowns. You shutter when you hear the price of the crowns. Can it be true? Why do your teeth suddenly need crowns? And do dental crowns really have to be so expensive?

Why fillings don’t work forever

Fillings work quite well when there is enough of the original tooth substance left to fix the filling on to. A filling can normally last 10 – 15 years after which it either falls off or there are signs of dental caries starting to develop underneath or at the edge of the filling. In many cases your dentist can just change the filling to a new one. Each time a filling is changed, however, your dentist will need to remove a bit more of the original tooth in order to create a clean surface for the filling to be attached to. This is the reason that your dentist might eventually deem the amount left of the original tooth insufficient for supporting a filling. In this case, the only proper treatment alternative is dental crowns.

Different kinds of dental crowns

You can normally choose between a few different materials for dental crowns. The alternatives include porcelain crowns, gold crowns, plast crowns and a combination of metal and porcelain crowns. The prices of dental crowns range according to the material. You can discuss the different alternatives and their price with your dentist.

Porcelain crowns are normally the most expensive dental crowns and are preferred my many, because they look the most like the natural tooth.

Gold crowns are often recommended by dentists. The reason is that gold is the material that is most like the natural tooth in substance and also makes stronger dental crowns than the ones purely made of porcelain. Dental crowns made of gold are mostly used in molars because of their not-so-natural appearance.

Plast crowns also look very much like the natural tooth in color, but plast is not a very strong material for dental crowns and often doesn’t last as long as the other materials. Plast crowns should therefore mainly be considered as a temporary (and/or cheaper) solution.

Metal-ceramic crowns are made of porcelain on the outside with a metal core on the inside. In this way the natural color is combined with the strength of the metal. For molars this material makes very strong dental crowns, but for front teeth many would prefer dental crowns made of pure porcelain. The reason is that metal-ceramic crowns lack the transparency of natural teeth, whereas dental crowns made of pure porcelain are more transparent and look more natural.

Before making your decision on what material to choose for your dental crowns, you should discuss the matter thoroughly with your dentist. You might not need to choose the most expensive alternative, but the cheapest dental crowns might not prove to be so cheap in the end anyway, if the result doesn’t last or if the tooth is damaged. Take the life expectancy of the different dental crowns into consideration and also consider your own needs and expectations. Then you will surely find a good solution.

X-rays in the dental clinic – why and what?

There are several reasons that a dentist might choose to take one or more x-rays. X-rays are a very helpful tool for your dentist or dental hygienist to ‘see’ things in your mouth that are not visible to the eye. In this article we will introduce three of the most common x-rays taken in the dental clinic: Bite-wings, single x-rays and panoramics

x-ray single pictureThere are several reasons that a dentist might choose to take one or more x-rays. X-rays are a very helpful tool for your dentist or dental hygienist to ‘see’ things in your mouth that are not visible to the eye. In this article we will introduce three of the most common x-rays taken in the dental clinic: Bite-wing x-rays, single x-rays and panoramic x-rays:

Bite-wing x-rays

Bite-wings are the x-rays that you bite on. These are used to see cavities on the surfaces between your teeth, since these are very difficult to see without the use of x-rays. Bite-wings are also used to evaluate your bone structure around the teeth, when there is suspicion of bone loss (periodontitis). Your dentist or dental hygienist will need to take between one and four x-rays to get the information that he/she needs. Normally it is not necessary to take more than one in each side, though.

Single x-rays

Single x-rays are taken to get a picture of a whole tooth including the root and surrounding bone structure. This type of x-ray is the best way to find causes for tooth aches or other abnormalities inside or around a single tooth. If there is suspicion of extensive periodontitis or caries your dentist or dental hygienist might choose to take a whole set of single x-rays to get a picture of every tooth. If there are no symptoms and a normal oral examinations shows no sign of disease, there should be no need for this.

Panoramic x-ray

A panoramic x-ray is a photograph of your whole mouth in one shot. It does not show as many details as a set of single x-rays, so it is only useful to get a general impression of your dental health status and then maybe supplement with a couple of single x-rays. This type of x-ray is especially useful in connection with orthodontics or a very extensive treatment need.