Thursday, November 8, 2007
Medical Reports: Conquering Cavities
Having healthy teeth isn't always as easy as it seems, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Tonight, Seven's Lynn Martinez shows how one university may have come up with a treatment that is Conquering Cavities for life.
WSVN -- It is an unmistakable sound. One which strikes fear in the hearts of many, the dentist drill, and, because of it, many fear their annual checkups.
Doctor: "OK, we're just going to check you for some cavities and take a look around your mouth."
But sometimes there is no way around it.
Marlon Serbin: "When I felt my tooth, it felt like it wasn't right."
Debbie Serbin: "He complained, in one of them, that he was getting a tooth ache, so we brought him in right away."
Marlon had cavities.
Marlon Serbin: "I ate a lot of chocolate."
But, rewind, what if a scene like this never had to happen? One University of Florida professor says he may have found a cure for cavities.
Dr. Jeffrey Hillman: "We call it smart or replacement therapy, and the idea is to use good bacteria to fight the bad bacteria that causes tooth decay."
Doctor Jeffrey Hillman accidentally discovered a mutant strain of a bacteria called Streptococcus Mutans, which is the bacteria that causes tooth decay.
Dr. Hillman: "I was actually performing an experiment designed for a completely different reason."
This particular strain didn't produce the acid that creates holes in your teeth.
Dr. Hillman: "It occurred to me that this bacteria could be used to replace the bad bacteria."
It works because when a patient is given the mutant or smart strain it out-smarts the cavity-causing bacteria.
Dr. Hillman: "The smart strain will slowly but surely eliminate the strains that cause tooth decay and, after about a year, our strain will have taken over the habitat on the tooth surface."
They tested it on rats and by introducing the smart strain at an early age, the rats developed almost no cavities. What does that mean for us?
Dr. Hillman: "The dentist or hygienist will simply put a cotton swab into this milky looking liquid and paint it onto your teeth, take about five minutes, you'll spit out anything that isn't stuck to your tooth surfaces, and that's the end of the procedure."
Some dentists are skeptical but say if it does ever make it into human dentistry it could change everything.
Dr. David Zionts: "If decay is eliminated, people will start going to the dentist to get their teeth straightened, to get them whitened, to make them prettier."
Lynn Martinez: "But, before you get your hopes up, as of now, the only way to prevent cavities is by the usual: brushing, flossing and getting dental cleanings every six months. The bacteria treatment is currently in FDA trials."
Dr. Hillman: "I think we are looking at another three to five years of clinical trials and, after that, maybe another year to go through the regulatory process."
For Marlon and his mom, it brings hope.
Debbie Serbin: "That's great. If it works, I would definitely look into it."
Who wouldn't? Because conquering cavities with one treatment surely beats the alternative.