ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Garlic Yields Up Its Health Secret
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Varicose, Spider Veins May Be Inevitable for Some
Gene Therapy May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis
More Faces Being Spared in Motor Vehicle Accidents
CANCER
Sharing Cancer Info May Be Empowering
Selenium, Omega-3s May Stave Off Colorectal Cancer
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
CAREGIVING
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
Flu Strikes a Milder Blow This Season
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
DIET, NUTRITION
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Trans-Fat Ban In New York City Is Proving successful
Adding Garlic Might Cut Cancer Risk
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Artificial Light Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk
Gene Mutation May Cause Some Cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Population-Based Strategy Urged to Cut U.S. Obesity Rate
EYE CARE, VISION
Blood Sugar Control Helps Diabetics Preserve Sight
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
FITNESS
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Run for Your Life
Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Eating Healthy : You Can Live Longer
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Laugh and the World Understands
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
A Little Chocolate May Do the Heart Good
Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Music May Temper Pain in Preemies
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
SENIORS
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Health Tip: Be More Comfortable During Childbirth
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
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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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