Here at Lake Orion Family Dentistry, we make sure to keep up with the latest dental news. Recently, we read about some emerging technology that seems straight out of science fiction. Cavities could be wiped out completely; doctors could custom-order new bone made from your stem cells. Although these products are still in development, they could be available in the next few years. Researchers are working on the next leap forward for dental technology.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities are caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans. When you eat sugar, S. mutans turns the sugar into lactic acid that eats your enamel. While mouthwash kills this pesky microbe, it always comes back within 12 hours or so. Mouthwash also kills other kinds of bacteria that aren’t harmful. Upsetting the delicate balance of bacteria in your body can actually weaken your immune system. Fluoride fights tooth decay, but can’t completely prevent it. Two teams of researchers are working to eradicate cavities once and for all.
Rinsing Away Tooth Decay
Scientists at UCLA’s College of Dentistry recently tested a new type of mouthwash. The key to its cavity-fighting power is a specifically targeted anti-microbial peptide, or STAMP. This STAMP finds and kills S. mutans while leaving other oral flora intact. Volunteers who rinsed just once were protected for almost four days! Large-scale clinical trials are set to begin next March. This study marked the first-ever use of STAMPs, and may be the first of a new generation of “smart” antibiotics.
The team at Oragenics took a different approach to tackling cavities. They have created a genetically engineered strain of S. mutans that does not produce lactic acid. It kills the normal strain of S. mutans and soon takes over. Eventually, Oragenics hopes to market a five-minute swab to inoculate patients with the new strain, called SMaRT, which would be used during dental appointments. Look for results from their clinical trial by the end of this year.
Building Better Bones
Meanwhile, researchers at Washington State University have created 3D printed synthetic bone. A modified 3D printer creates a delicate mineral scaffold which is seeded with bone stem cells. In about a week, the cells have attached to the scaffold and begin building new bone. Over time, the scaffold harmlessly dissolves. Doctors could custom-order new bone made from 3D medical scans and provide the patient’s own cells for dental bone grafts. Studies using rats and rabbits have shown promising results, and the team hopes to begin human trials soon.
We hope to see these new developments available for patients soon. In the meantime, prevent dental problems before they start. Proper oral hygiene fights cavities and gum disease, and regular dental cleanings go where brushing can’t. If you haven’t seen Dr. Greenfield in the last six months, schedule your next checkup soon. Call Lake Orion Family Dentistry today at (248) 693-6213 to schedule your appointment.