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Dr Mark Walker explains “self-healing” teeth and its technology

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 6:31
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Taking care of your teeth has never been as important as it is today, not only for the aesthetic beauty a bright white smile provides, but for your overall health. Magazines are full of models donning gorgeous smiles accented by beautiful teeth. Whitening treatments and dental veneers have become big business, as mainstream society seeks those pearly whites.

The focus on beautiful teeth has been accentuated by the magnitude of studies that link major health problems with poor dental hygiene. We all know about cavities and gum disease causing tooth loss and bad breath. But, evidence has lead researchers to believe that cavities and gum disease may contribute to many other serious health conditions, like diabetes and respiratory diseases. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/life-vie/dent-eng.php

Untreated cavities can also be painful and lead to serious infections that have the potential of spreading to the face and neck. Studies have also been completed to understand better the link between poor oral health and heart disease, as well as the link between poor oral health and women delivering pre-term, low birth weight babies.

Although the benefits of good oral health and regular trips to the dentist are well known, it is still estimated that 35 percent of Canadians do not visit the dentist for routine cleanings, check-ups and fillings. Of the 35 percent, 15 percent reported having anxiety related to dentists and feared painful procedures. Many cited the drill and freezing needles as their main source of dental phobia. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/oral-health/how-to-get-over-your-fear-of-the-dentist%2523c6f8vWOt1Xgvw7D1.97

Researchers in the UK have been working to provide alternatives to the traditional filling treatments that require needles and drilling. For decades, scientists have known that in the right environment teeth can re-mineralize, or self-heal small abrasions and lesions in the dentin. The problem was creating this environment in the mouth for a period long enough to completely heal the cavity proved difficult. http://www.drbicuspid.com/index.aspx?sec=ser&sub=def&pag=dis&ItemID=307786

Enamel demineralization takes place when pH balances are below 5.5 in the mouth.  Calcium and phosphate ions are dissolved out of the tooth and eventually cause decay. Calcium, phosphate, and fluoride cause remineralization in the tooth, reversing the effects of demineralization. However, most people don’t have a balanced pH strong enough to foster remineralization on a scale large enough to heal the tooth. Healthy saliva, which contains calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate, has a pH of 6.8 to 7.4. Remineralization takes place at a higher pH of 7.5 to 8.5 in the presence of calcium and phosphate. http://www.rdhmag.com/articles/print/volume-29/issue-12/feature/remineralization-confusion-runs-rampant-in-my-mind-where-do-i-begin.html

Late last year, UK Researchers made headlines when they announced they had developed a technology that would remineralize teeth in the same amount of time it takes to fill a cavity. The treatment, called Electrically Assisted Enhanced Tooth Remineralization (EAER), is a pain-free, cost-effective treatment. Very broadly, the treatment works like this: first the tooth is cleansed to remove any decayed tissue or organic material that has built up. Once clean, the tooth enamel is ready for the treatment. http://www.thestar.com/life/technology/2014/06/18/new_tooth_decay_technology_could_end_drilling_at_the_dentists_office.html

“It uses a tiny electrical current of a few micro amps, that doesn’t cause any physical sensation in the patient, to introduce natural minerals back into the clean lesion,” one of the pioneering researchers said in an interview. “The electrical field pushes the mineral ions into the cavity, triggering remineralization from the deepest part of the lesion.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/25/us-dental-device-idUSKCN0QU21C20150825

Dr. Mark Walker, a practicing dentist in the southern Ontario town of Dutton, is excited about the potential these treatments offer for the future. “The possibility of remineralization has been known in dentistry since the 1980s,” Dr. Mark Walker said. “This is exciting because it is able to drive the minerals and calcium deep enough into the tooth to create long term results.” https://about.me/MarkWalkerDentist

Being able to offer an alternative to fearful patients is also great news to the dentist. “I’ve had some patients ask [about this technology] and they seem really excited to know when it will get to Canada,” Dr. Mark Walker said. “Being able to offer this to children and people with deep seeded dental anxiety will be great for the general oral health of the public.” http://ca.linkedin.com/in/drmarkwalker

The UK researchers behind the Electrically Assisted Enhanced tooth Remineralization (EAER) system expect to have the technology in dental offices across the UK in the next three years. While the Canadian Dental Association is very interested in the developing technologies around oral health care, there is no word when EAER will be available in Canada. Dr. Mark Walker hopes it is sooner than later.

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