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Dentistry In The Digital Age: Using Lasers To Detect And Repair Tooth Decay

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Everyone's familiar with the crude caricature of dentists as portrayed in old movies and cartoons: a sadistic mad scientist wielding a sharp dental pick and a pair of pliers. However, with the amazing new tools and technology available to dentists, the days of crude dentistry are long gone. Through the use of electronic technologies such as laser machines, complex dental procedures are increasingly painless and noninvasive. In fact, dentists may soon be able to regrow your teeth from scratch by using laser-induced stem cell therapy.

Using Lasers to Detect Tooth Decay

Imagine a dentist (like those at Family Dental Office) firing an advanced laser machine into a patient's mouth to analyze teeth at a molecular level. Does that sound like science fiction? Fortunately for dentists and patients alike, this technology is now a reality.

Laser machines work similar to X-ray machines: they both emit electromagnetic waves to probe the internal structure of your teeth and generate an image that can be used to identify tooth decay and other issues. However, advanced laser machines have the potential to be safer and far more accurate. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, lab tests have shown that one laser device was able to detect early instances of tooth decay in 93 percent of cases. In the same test, an X-ray device was only able to detect decay in 27 percent of cases, making the laser device over 3.4 times more accurate.

Tooth Regeneration via Laser Beams

In the past, the only way to repair cavities was to inject your teeth with foreign compounds such as ceramics. With laser technology, it may be possible to repair cavities by using the stem cells that are already present inside your teeth.

Scientists at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research have already proven that repairing cavities via laser therapy is possible. Using rat teeth, which are genetically similar to human teeth, the scientists removed internal portions of the teeth to mimic cavities. The scientists then used a special non-ionising laser to stimulate the damaged dentin tissue deep within the teeth. The energy from the laser activated naturally-occurring stem cells, and within 12 weeks new dentin tissue had formed in the cavity.

Since the enamel that coats the outside of adult teeth doesn't contain stem cells, dentists would still be required to cap damaged teeth after performing the therapy. Nevertheless, the ability to naturally regrow decayed dentin within our teeth is a very promising advancement indeed. The painful drilling procedures that have terrified dental patients for decades may soon be a thing of the past.