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Cavity Cops Dis 'Drill and Fill'

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March 28, 2001 (Bethesda, Md.) -- To significantly improve dental health in the U.S., we need to develop more sophisticated strategies than to simply "drill and fill" cavities when they appear.

That's the gist of a consensus statement released today by an expert panel of dental experts convened by the National Institutes of Health.

Dental caries -- tooth disease -- may not be killing anyone, and it may be diminishing as a threat, but it remains a serious public health problem. Nearly 20% of children between the ages of 2 and 4 have experienced the disease, and just 5% of adults are free of the disease.

"[There is] the potential to bring your child to the dentist to prevent the disease ... rather than filling the holes that develop when we wait too long," says Michael Alfano, DMD, chairman of the expert panel. "But in order to do that, we need better diagnostic techniques. The problem is that right now, our techniques are really not sensitive enough to pick up these early [infections] before they actually cavitate the tooth."

X-rays can be helpful in diagnosing early disease, says Alfano, dean of New York University College of Dentistry in New York City, but better methods need to be tested. "There are some exciting new developments that suggest the dentist may soon be armed with ways to know ... and then intercede to prevent [teeth] from ultimately requiring a filling.

"Filling a tooth is expensive, invasive, and weakens the tooth," he says. "Other than restoring the tooth to function, which is necessary when it does have a hole in it, it's not necessarily a good result."

Remineralization, which can restore tooth enamel if disease is caught at an early enough stage, is a promising option. "Identification of early caries lesions and treatment with nonsurgical methods, including remineralization, represents the next era in dental care," the report states.

"We think it is just a higher standard of care that ultimately should result in fewer repeat visits," Alfano says. "One of the things that keeps dentists busy today is they are replacing old fillings."

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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