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Trip to dentist becoming less painful


Medication, laser drills help

November 30, 1998
Web posted at: 3:48 p.m. EST (2048 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Don't like the sound of the drill chiseling at your teeth? Dentists now have new treatments for dental problems that may make trips to the dentist a little easier.

The leading cause of tooth loss in the United States is periodontal disease, an inflammation and destruction of tissues that surround and support the teeth. It is caused by bacteria and plaque that accumulate above and below the gum line.

But the medication Periostat, made by CollaGenex Pharmaceuticals, can help fight the disease.


"When we use this drug in addition to scaling and root cleaning, we show a 50 percent improvement in the outcome," said periodontist Dr. Maria Ryan. "We also have shown that we can prevent the progression of the disease in patients who are on the drug versus those who are on placebo."

Studies show periodontal disease starts in early childhood and increases with age. Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, diet, stress, genetic factors and poor oral hygiene.

Poor tooth maintenance can also lead to cavities and the often dreaded drill used to prepare teeth for fillings.

But a new laser technique offers pain-free fillings to 98 percent of patients.

laser treatment
New laser techniques require no needle and no drill  

The laser uses hydrokinetic technology in which the power of the laser is mixed with a high-precision water spray.

Dr. Ed Romano uses the new laser in his practice.

"It causes the water to actually do the cutting," he said. "The laser does a little bit, but about 85 percent of it is done with regular water."

Patient Rachel Owens, 12, had the laser procedure done with no anesthesia.

"It just felt like tapping -- that was it," she said.

The laser, which can be used on children and adults, has other benefits. As it cuts, it produces a sterile field which decreases tooth sensitivity, and it creates a stronger bond that a traditional filling.

"My hope is that we will literally raise a generation of people who aren't afraid to go to the dentist because there is no needle and no drill," Romano said.

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