Many Australians fear the dentist’s drill, and a recent national survey found that nearly 30 percent of us have an infrequent and unfavourable pattern of visiting the dentist, and higher levels of untreated tooth decay as a result. The University is pursuing a solution to remove the fear factor from trips to the dentist.
Innovative research at the Faculty of Dentistry may reduce the need for the dreaded dentist drill.
For many people, the dentist’s drill provokes an unsettling mental image – lying prone in the dental chair while a screeching drill burrows into your cavities. No wonder many children and adults feel distressed by the prospect of a visit to the dentist. Some patients report feeling more pain after having their tooth drilled than beforehand. While this scenario is rare, stories of this kind make dental care unpopular.
But thanks to innovative research being conducted by the Faculty of Dentistry, drilling may be on the way out. Studies show that tooth decay can be managed without the use of the dental drill if patients conform to a timely dental care regimen tailored to their risk status.
The new Caries Management System uses chemical treatments and education to modify patient behaviour to halt the progression of dental decay and allow remineralisation of the affected teeth.
As long as tooth decay is identified before actual cavities develop, it can be stopped, reversed, and future occurrences prevented.
The faculty’s research, led by Associate Professor Wendell Evans and supported by Colgate-Palmolive and the National Health and Medical Research Council, has compared the new strategy to traditional reparative treatments and found it to be both clinically successful and cost effective.
“The results demonstrate that the Caries Management System protocols do reduce the need for surgical interventions,” says Evans. “Trials in selected general practices after two years showed a 40 percent reduction in the incidence of decay, 46 percent fewer first-time fillings from enamel caries, and a 54 percent reduction in the number of repeat fillings.”
Dr Susan Cartwright, Scientific Affairs Manager for Colgate–Palmolive, gives Colgate’s perspective: “We are extremely happy to be associated with this approach to dental care as it focuses on our belief that prevention is better than cure, and this care will be more easily available to those who really need it.”