Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

Super Solutions for Tooth Decay; Dental Scientists Are Closing in on Cavities with New Mouth Rinses That Prevent Decay by Remineralizing Teeth

Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

Super Solutions for Tooth Decay; Dental Scientists Are Closing in on Cavities with New Mouth Rinses That Prevent Decay by Remineralizing Teeth

Article excerpt

SUPER SOLUTIONS FOR TOOTH DECAY

Look out, Mr. Tooth Decay!Until recently, brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily has been the best way to keep cavities away, but dental scientists are now well on their way to a more effective solution. Super salivas--mouth rinses containing calcium, fluoride, phosphate, and other chemicals --will prevent and repair microscopic lesions before they turn into cavities. Using such rinses, dentists will be able to help you treat cavities long before they grow large enough to be detected by X-ray.

The problem with teeth is thatthey are not as hard and slick as they appear, but porous, like a hard sponge. Plaque-forming bacteria --which thrive on the fermentable carbohydrates in foods --form weak acids that corrode the enamel and leach out the minerals forming the outer surface.

This incessant demineralization(which fluctuates with the amount of fermentable carbohydrate residue in the mouth) would soon rob us of our teeth without saliva to counteract it. The minerals in natural saliva (in particular, calcium and phosphate) held to remineralize tooth surfaces and enable us to withstand the continual acid attack.

Dental caries (cavities) form whendemineralization outpaces remineralization. One cause is a diet high in sugar, which produces excess acid in the mouth. Another is xerostomia, or "dry mouth,' a condition stemming from various diseases, drug interactions, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy to the head and neck. Some people simply produce abnormally low levels of saliva, or their saliva may not remineralize well.

The new super-saliva rinses supplementnatural saliva and help the body to fight decay in a natural, more effective way by speeding up the remineralization of the teeth. Dr. Athena Papas, a clinical scientist at the Tufts University School of Dentistry, is enthusiastic about super saliva's role in preventing and repairing dental decay. She and Tufts' dean, Dr. Erling Johansen, a pioneer in the development of super saliva, have treated approximately 1,500 patients with solutions; they have nearly 500 under active treatment.

Many Tufts patients are especiallyprone to caries for various reasons. Dr. Papas reports great success with the solutions. "Using the rinses for two minutes at a time, twice a day, many patients have been able to greatly reduce the rate of caries formation,' she says.

Dr. Papas has been particularlysuccessful with bulimics, whose frequent vomiting exposes their teeth to high concentrations of stomach acids. These especially corrosive acids vastly increase vulnerability to caries.

Patients undergoing radiationtherapy in the head or the neck also benefit from the super salivas. Radiation therapy often compromises the blood supply to the jaw. …

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