ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
Taking the Mystery Out of Hypnotherapy
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Many Americans Fall Short on Their Vitamin D
Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age
CANCER
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Well Water Might Raise Bladder Cancer Risk
Many Ignore Symptoms of Bladder Trouble
CAREGIVING
Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use
Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
DIABETES
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Coffee or Tea Consumption May Lower Stroke Risk
The Food Irradiation Story
Trans-Fat Ban In New York City Is Proving successful
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Preparing for a Chlorine Gas Disaster
Lead Exposure in Childhood Linked to Criminal Behavior Later
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
EYE CARE, VISION
Sports Eye Injuries Leading Cause of Blindness in Youths
Glaucoma Associated With Reading Impairments in Elderly
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
FITNESS
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Exercise Guards White Blood Cells Against Aging
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Swine Flu May Have Infected More Than 100,000 Americans
Workplace Wellness Seems to Really Work
Vitamin D Best Taken With Largest Meal of Day, Study Finds
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Chinese Red Yeast Rice May Prevent Heart Attack
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
Coconut Oil May Help Fight Childhood Pneumonia
MEN'S HEALTH
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
SENIORS
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Omega-3 May Reduce Endometriosis Risk
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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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