Cavity Cops Dis 'Drill and Fill'
"The next breaking area of dental technology has to do with remineralization, and we are looking at the possibilities of regrowing dental or natural tooth material as a filling material," Matthew Messina, DDS, a practicing dentist and spokesman for the American Dental Association, tells WebMD. "But that is not in the everyday toolbox of the average dentist right now."
Eliminating the need for dental crowns, bridges, and moldings could cut dental expenses, but major perception changes are crucial, the report stresses. Dentists lack reimbursement incentives to keep their patients from getting to the point of needing cavity fixes.
"The tendency is to compensate dentists only for doing fillings, and the reality is that a dentist can do so much more to prevent these conditions," Alfano says.
"The insurance companies are not, as a whole, as interested in preventive techniques, and that's one of the areas that's going to have to be adjusted," Messina tells WebMD.
Panel member Alan Lurie, DDS, of the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, pointed out that controlling the amount of sugar that children eat is important in preventing disease. And according to the report, sugarless chewing gum with xylitol (a type of sugar that doesn't seem to promote tooth decay) also is effective in preventing caries. However, the gum is not yet widely available in the U.S.
The panel did note that brushing teeth with fluoridated toothpaste and widespread community water fluoridation have made significant dents in dental caries in recent decades. Moreover, dentists have been effective in preventing some disease by "sealing" teeth with plastic film.
"The awareness with parents of the value of taking their kids to the dentist on a regular basis and starting at a young age has really grown, along with proper brushing," Messina tells WebMD. "We're producing a generation of kids that has had very little experience at the dentist, and a very low decay rate."
"The reduction in dental caries is as much as two-thirds in the past 30 years," Alfano says, "so we've been doing something right as a society."