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Forget About the Novocaine, Skip the Drill

Teeth may be able to heal themselves

(HealthDay) -- Wouldn't it be great if teeth could heal by themselves?

That thought apparently occurred to some researchers, too, and their work has led to the development of a new material that helps teeth repair tiny cracks and holes, according to an article from ABC News. The experimental material is called amorphous calcium phosphate, or ACP.

Scientists say the new material could help both patients and dentists deal with cavities and some problems associated with orthodontic work. ACP contains both calcium and phosphate, which are anti-acids, so it can neutralize the effects of cavity-causing acid, the article says. When ACP hits your teeth, the reaction between the material and the acid forms hydroxypatite, a mineral normally found in teeth and bones that can bond to the tooth and help heal it.

When it comes to braces, ACP can help by fighting off plaque buildup and tooth decay as part of a new type of adhesive. Scientists also say that a version of ACP could be used to help with some types of facial reconstruction and fractures.

But the scientists who invented it are careful about making too many claims. They note that it has been tested only on cow teeth and that it is able to heal only tiny cavities so far, those about the size of a millimeter -- or the head of a pin. And, they say, the filling that results is not as hard as naturally occurring tooth enamel. Still, they say, the material holds promise for temporary fillings and dental care products.

So how do you keep your teeth healthy to begin with? If you're lucky, it starts when you're a kid. To find out more about keeping kids' teeth healthy, read this from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. And for more about teeth and how, exactly, cavities form, take a look at this offering from Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia.

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