Little Teeth and Big Dentistry

March 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

CHILDREN may be spared the ordeal of fillings for decayed first teeth after a study found the dentist’s drill may be doing more harm than good.

Research has found that a new pain-free technique of sealing off the decayed tooth with a crown until it falls out naturally is more effective and causes less damage to the teeth than giving children fillings.

Some dentists are so concerned about the damage caused by conventional fillings that they will no longer treat tooth decay and instead ask children to reduce their consumption of sugary foods and brush regularly until the tooth falls out naturally.

Many dentists also believe that bad memories of having fillings puts some children off going to the dentist.

The trial of 132 children, who were monitored for five years, found that 2% of those whose decayed tooth had been sealed with a crown suffered subsequent problems. For those who had had conventional fillings, 17% had experienced such difficulties.

The findings of the study, conducted by Dundee University and the James Cook University hospital, Middlesbrough, have led to a £3m government-funded trial to decide conclusively whether the practice of putting fillings in milk teeth should stop.

Jimmy Steele, a government adviser and lead on oral and dental health at the National Institute for Health Research, said: “This is challenging what has been the conventional wisdom for 150 years.”

The trial, funded by the institute, will study 1,460 children at 50 UK dental practices.

Unlike a filling, the alternative Hall technique seals the decay into the tooth with a stainless steel crown. Dentists believe that sealing it off from food and oxygen stops the bacteria from thriving and causing further damage.

Nicola Innes, a lecturer in paediatric dentistry at Dundee University and leader of both trials, said: “Sealing in decay is getting a lot of interest but we know that, although . . . there is a strong body of evidence supporting it, many dentists still view decay as a gangrenous type of disease that needs to be cut out surgically.”

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