ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age
Many Americans Fall Short on Their Vitamin D
Tequila Plant May Help Fight Bone Loss
CANCER
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
Mineral May Reduce High-Risk Bladder Disease
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
DIABETES
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
DIET, NUTRITION
Healthy Eating While On Vacation
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
Eating Free Range
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Air Pollution May Cause Appendicitis: Study Reveals
Air Pollution Raises Risk of Heart Disease, Death
Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say
EYE CARE, VISION
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
Contact Lens Cases Often Contaminated
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
FITNESS
FDA Mandates New Warnings for Botox
Marathoners Go the Distance on Heart Health
Avoiding a Holiday Season of Discontent
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Retail Clinics Attracting Those Without Regular Doctors
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
Polyunsaturated Fats Really May Lower Heart Risk
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Drink Away Dementia?
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
SENIORS
Any Old Cane Won't Do
Money May Matter, Health-Wise, in Old Age
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At Risk
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
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Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start

FRIDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Using lasers to spot troubled teeth before cavities form, researchers hope to turn the dentist's drill into a relic of the 20th century.

The technology, called "Raman spectroscopy" (RS), is not brand new. In fact, scientists in other fields have long been using it to distinguish between various chemicals, based on their unique molecular fingerprints.

But this is the first time RS has been used to identify teeth in the very earliest stages of decay, the British research team said.

"The technique we are working with can tell the difference between [healthy] enamel and decaying enamel, and so in the future, if this technology is further developed, a dentist could identify early decay using it," explained study co-author Frances Downey, a graduate student with the Biomaterials, Biomimetics & Biophotonics Research Group operating out of the Dental Institute of King's College London.

Results of what Downey and her colleagues refer to as a "preliminary" effort were reported at the Microscience 2008 conference held recently in London.

The new approach to cavity prevention might be available for practical use five years down the road, Downey said. For the moment, work has been conducted solely with already extracted teeth, rather than with actual patients.

Researchers took advantage of the fact that cavities develop when the acids produced by microorganisms found in dental plaque begin to demineralise tooth enamel and produce distinct chemical changes.

By focusing RS optical fibers on individual teeth, the authors were able to track the unique light patterns that emanate from chemical compositions on either healthy or decaying enamel.

Theoretically, such a process could quickly spot tooth decay at a much earlier stage than the current screening standard, which is based on visual exams and X-rays.

The result of such early detection might be cavity prevention, not repair, the researchers said. In essence, sites of decay could be rematerialized with medicinal mouthwashes and fluoride varnishes, preventing the development of full-blown cavities and eliminating the need for dental drilling.

Study supervisor Dr. Frederic Festy said that larger studies involving patients are in the planning stages.

"However, that is not to say dentist drills would become obsolete," said Downey. She and her team noted that, in its current form, the screening procedure would be both expensive and time-consuming. "I think there will always be those of us who like our sweets a bit too much, and visit the dentist too infrequently, to keep them in business," she said.

But Charlie Brown, national counsel for Consumers for Dental Choice, based in Washington, D.C., hailed the innovation as an "excellent development."

"Anything that means that there might be fewer filling materials used in the mouth is a tremendously positive development," Brown said. "I salute any technology that will scan the mouth and prevent cavities before they occur, so we can try to have the least intervention in the mouth as possible."

-Alan Mozes

More information

There's more on dental cavities at the American Dental Association.



SOURCES: Frances Downey, Ph.D. candidate, Biomaterials, Biomimetics & Biophotonics Research Group, Dental Institute, King's College London, U.K.; Charlie Brown, national counsel, Consumers for Dental Choice, Washington, D.C.; June 2008 Microscience 2008 conference, London

Last Updated: Aug. 22, 2008

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