No more drilling at the dentist?

No more drilling at the dentist?

A new study suggests that drilling may not be needed to reverse tooth decay.

Good news, dentist-phobes: the end of drilling may be nigh.

A new study out of Sydney University has found that tooth decay is a slow enough disease that it can be reversed without fillings in 80 percent of patients, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

For those who are afraid of going to the dentist, it’s welcome news. Without the fear of facing the drill, perhaps people will get more regular care to prevent tooth decay in the first place.

It could result in no-drill dentistry, meaning the fill-and-drill approach could go the way of the dinosaur.

Associate Professor Wendell Evans, who was the lead investigator on the health study which lasted seven years, said it may be unnecessary for patients to get fillings in most cases.

It’s long been accepted in the dental community that tooth decay is a rapid disease, and the best way to deal with the rot is to get rid of it, even if it was early in its development. But this research shows that decay isn’t always progressive and actually develops quite slowly.

The study found that it takes an average of four to eight years for decay to progress from the outer to the inner layer of the tooth. That’s a lot of time for the decay to be both detected and treated before a filling is required. Instead, dentists should only drill and fill in cases where there is a cavity already present in the tooth.

To come to their conclusions, the researchers compared 1,000 patients at 22 different dental practices in Australia. Half of them had conventional treatment, while the other used the Caries Management System to prevent and reverse tooth decay in cases where a hole in the tooth hadn’t yet been found. They used a high concentration fluoride varnish, gave patients advice on brushing, restricted sugary snacks and beverages between meals, and monitored patients who were at a higher risk.

Seven years later, the changes were stark: the need for fillings declined between 30 and 50 percent on average for patients who received the preventive care. Those that were at a high risk, requiring as many as two fillings per year, saw an 80 percent reduction.

The findings were published in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

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