Health Alert: Cavities

NATIONAL - There's a breakthrough dental program to help you prevent - and possibly reverse - tooth decay.

Luke Bietsch is making up for years of neglecting his teeth. "I never really brushed too much when I was younger," he says.

The 14-year-old is taking part in an extreme hygiene program to strengthen his teeth and wipe out decay.

Steven Parrett, a dentist, says, "You're aggressively attacking the bacteria that contribute to it."

Dr. Parrett developed the program. It begins in the office with a check of the patient's saliva for cavity-causing bacteria.

Parrett says, "We look at the bacteria, also we have a dietary questionnaire which we go over."

Patients receive counseling on tooth-friendly nutrition and dental hygiene. Then, they're treated with a powerful fluoride varnish to strengthen tooth enamel.

Dr. Parrett says, "That changes the surface tension of the enamel enough that it's hard for the bacteria to attach even. But we use it also for the remineralization process."

At home, patients use custom-made trays to apply a weaker fluoride gel. They rinse with a prescription strength mouthwash and chew anti-cavity gum.

A fluorescent laser monitors the patient's progress by measuring bacteria levels. The laser can also spot the earliest signs of decay - before a cavity even starts.

"We shine the laser light in there and we get a digital readout that tells us if there's breakdown of the enamel," says Dr. Parrett.

Toothache patient Chad Clopper says he's interested in the program, "I think it'll be good for me. Maybe I won't get anymore cavities - ha!"

That's the whole idea. Doctor Parrett says once a tooth is filled, the area around the filling becomes a breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria called strep-mutans, putting you at risk for even more decay.

Posted by Bryce Mursch