Gel May Replace Dentist's Drill

Swedish experts say a new gel that painlessly dissolves decayed matter in cavities could replace the dental drill in many cases of tooth decay. Oficials say the gel dissolves decayed material lying on the surface of cavities, while the amino acids form a chemical barrier protecting healthy tissue.

The dissolving process takes less then 30 seconds, after which time the dentist scrapes the cavity free of gel. The procedure is then repeated until the gel no longer clouds upon contact with the cavity, indicating that all unwanted material has been loosened off the tooth surface. A final cotton swab clean-up prepares the cavity for the application of the filling.

Despite the gel's effectiveness, the drill may not face immediate extinction. For many cavities, such those underneath fillings, or when access to the caries (cavity) is limited, some drilling will still be needed. But even in those cases, the drill will usually only be used to remove tissue in the least sensitive areas, far from the nerve. That may mean an added bonus for long-suffering dental patients. As drill use becomes rarer and less painful, "in most cases anesthetics -- and the pain and discomfort of injections -- will not be needed.

Swedish dentists have already used the gel on over 1,000 patients, and the company will expand domestic use of the gel to more than 1,000 Swedish dentists over the next few months. The company plans to begin marketing the gel called Carisolv internationally by 1999.

New Scientist January 10, 1998, p. 14

COMMENT: Just leave it to the Swedes. They were one of the first countries to make it a crime to put amalgan ("silver") mercury fillings in anyone's mouth and now they have developed an alternative to the panful dental drill. Most people don't recognize that the high speed drill that most dentists use is what is actually responsible for the death of most teeth that eventually require a root canal. If this gel is found to be effective and without harmful side effects, it could be a major boost to dental science and the preservation of our teeth.

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