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New Material Enhances Fillings, Rebuilds Teeth


WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Aug. 27, 2001 -- Coming soon to a dentist's office near you: 'smart' fillings that release cavity-fighting components such as calcium and phosphate.

"[Smart fillings] look very much like current composites and match the appearance of [tooth] enamel quite well," says Joseph Antonucci, PhD, a research chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. "They would act to prevent formation of secondary or recurrent cavities that can occur on or around conventional fillings."

Antonucci presented findings on the new fillings Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, in Chicago. At that meeting, he and colleague Drago Skrtic, PhD, a project leader at the American Dental Association Health Foundation's Paffenbarger Research Center in Gaithersburg, reported that a substance used for the fillings -- called amorphous calcium phosphate, or ACP -- grew new mineral in cow teeth.

Antonucci says he expects the filler to be widely available for dentists in a year or two.

Unlike the ACP fillings, ordinary composite fillings don't promote remineralization, he says.

"[The new material] can also be used to counteract the demineralization that occurs when kids have braces attached to teeth," Antonucci says. As a powder, "ACP is also used as a desensitizer for teeth that are sensitive to cold and heat," he says.

The powdered substance is also found in some toothpastes and Trident Advantage and Trident for Kids chewing gums.

"The benefit from these materials would be a reduction in future cavities," says Frederick Eichmiller, DDS, director of the American Dental Association Health Foundation's Paffenbarger Research Center. "These materials have the potential to prevent new cavities from forming and to repair early damage that may have already occurred."

It may also be useful in patients that are especially susceptible to cavities, such as people who have undergone radiation therapy or chemotherapy, he says.

They are extremely safe, Eichmiller says, the composition is very similar to existing composites and the added active ingredients are minerals normally found in teeth, bones, and saliva.

However, studies are needed to see if they are strong enough to use them in permanent stress-bearing fillings such as the back teeth, he says.

One general dentist is cautiously optimistic about the new material. Joseph L. Perno, DDS, past president of the Academy of General Dentistry and a dentist in private practice in Voorhees, N.J, says he wants to see long-term studies conducted on actual patients before he is convinced.

"These studies are promising and very optimistic, but I am a conservative practitioner and am careful when new things come along," he says. Still, "the philosophy behind this is excellent and the results seem very good."

One concern is cost, Perno says.

"Will it double the cost of the material?" he says. "Right now composite [white fillings] are more costly than amalgam fillings, and every time we improve composites, they get more costly."

Amalgams are the silver fillings that are a mixture of mercury and an alloy of silver, tin, and copper.

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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!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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