Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cavities Gone Untreated

There is a large population of individuals who have untreated tooth decay. As you can see via the graph, tooth decay left untreated is often disproportionately higher in the less educated and minorities.  Why is this? Is it because minorities have less money to spend on treating tooth decay or because the uneducated are less informed as to where they can go for help.

There are many places a person can go to get treated without breaking the bank. To experiment with this one can do a simple web search for " free dental care austin, tx". There on the first page is a clinic available a few minutes from downtown labeled as a low income dental clinic, they even offer payment plans. With this in mind, perhaps the reason more people wait until the last minute to treat cavities is phobia of the dentist.

In a study done in the Netherlands in 2009, 1,959 Dutch adults aged 18-93 were surveyed as to individual phobias. Four of these phobias were dental fear, fear of snakes, heights, and physical injury. Each one particularly frightening in its own way no doubt. This information in helpful is understanding how phobic the average person is in getting dental caries treated.

The majority of subjects rated fear of snakes as one of their greatest phobias. However, dental fear comes in at a close second. Thus, according to the data gathered the average Dutch resident would prefer facing the dental chair than be faced with a snake.

 2009 Apr;117(2):135-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0722.2008.00602

"Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Adults (Age 20 to 64)." National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1 Jan. 2005. Web. 5 Mar. 2015. <>

Science of regrowing teeth

Technological advances within the field of science have brought about many great advancements over the years. Research scientists are experimenting with ways to actually grow teeth from stem cells. By the simple use of a laser and stem cells it may be possible to grow normal healthy teeth in humans.

In fact, a team of dentists used rodents to see if they were able to regrow teeth by using a laser instrument and stem cells. First, the dentist drilled a series of holes in the teeth of laboratory rats. After the holes were drilled in the tooth of the rat adult stem cells were applied to the pulp portion of the remaining tooth. Humans also have pulp which can be found in adult human teeth. The stem cells were applied by using a low powered laser. Only a low powered laser may be used in a procedure of this nature.

The Business Insider also published an article and photo which illustrated how the teeth begin to regenerate after treatment with a low power laser and stem cells. The photo was quite impressive and gives the public some insight on what the future of science may hold.

Teeth might just be able to be regrown one day
Growing teeth is considered to be regenerative medicine and may one day replace root canal as well as other dental procedures. Additional research and testing is currently under way.

After the laser was applied to the tooth, the dentist constructed a temporary cap and placed it over each tooth of the rat. Over the next 10-12 weeks the teeth were carefully observed through x rays and by simply looking at the teeth with the naked eye. Through careful observation over a 12 week period it was noticed that under a thin layer of enamel the tooth had in fact begun to grow.

This is a very complex procedure and it is unknown weather or not this procedure could be used in place of common dental procedures and practices. Regrowing teeth is a procedure that is so complex because it involves stem cells and various proteins that are found in human as well as animal saliva.

Stem cells are also being used in an effort to rebuild a jawbone so dental implants may fit securely. Stem cells have been found useful to treat a number of ailments and defects. However, stem cell research and application is still considered by many as controversial.

If this procedure can help humans to grow teeth in the future it would certainly be a real breakthrough as far as medical science and dentistry is concerned. Due to the fact that this procedure involves the manipulating of cells and proteins, it is considered quite complex and more research and testing may be needed.