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Can You Say Goodbye to Root Canals? Part 2

Welcome back!  Thanks for coming back to get the rest of the exciting news about this new therapy.  As you may recall from last week, we talked about a new study report that was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine and it talked about some research into using laser to regrow dentin.  I think this is all so exciting — especially for those of us who have had experiences in our pasts (and maybe in our present) that include dental fillings, crowns and root canals…to name a few.  So, let’s get right to the additional exciting information I promised about this new process.

Some History on Stem Cell Research

I know you have heard about stem cell research and some of the stories have been pretty gruesome.  This area of medicine has its share of stem research stories but they have pretty much been centered on ways to engineer stem cells to prod tissue regeneration.  Most of these techniques have involved re-introducing changed stem cells into the patient or by guiding stem cell populations externally by adding growth factors.  This new process or technique isn’t introducing anything externally except the laser light which turns on the TGF-beta that already lives in the body.

How It Works

Apparently, it isn’t the heat from the laser that does the “turning-on” but rather the energy of its photons.  When the laser light is focused on dentin, the photons get absorbed into the tissue and are said to activate molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) that naturally occur in the body.  The ROS turns on the TGF-beta which, in turn, prods the chain reaction that eventually leads to dentin reformation.  It must be noted here that it’s kind of like Goldilocks in the Three Bears story…too little won’t work and too much is destructive.  The power of the laser must be at a specific level of intensity and must not produced ANY heat for it to be effective.

More Exciting News

Not only could this technique alter modern dentistry as we know it, but researchers say that the TGF-beta protein can be found in other body tissues as well.  Tissues like skin and bone, for example, could be regrown using this technique.  They also point out that TGF-beta is known to control inflammation of tissue.  This opens the door to the potential of using the growth factor to control certain inflammatory diseases.   But, alas, these uses are truly further down the road than the potential use for dentistry.

Many dental clinics already use laser in their various treatments of gum disease.  Your Periodontist on Long Island is one of those dental professionals who use laser to treat gum disease.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or pay him a visit on the web at and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Can New Teeth Be Grown From Stem Cells?

As we all know, there is a great deal of ongoing research into the use of stem cells to create and regenerate all types of tissues in the human body.  Have you ever wondered if there is any possibility that new oral tissues could be created or regenerated?  How about the actual creation or regeneration of the teeth?  This is a question that I have asked and wondered about — this is until I recently read an article about some stem cell research into making new teeth!  Come on along with me while we talk briefly about the information in that article.

New Research Data Being Presented This Summer

The new research data on making new teeth from stem cells is being released at the Royal Science Exhibition this summer.  The data that Paul Sharpe, Dickinson Professor of Craniofacial Biology at King’s College London Dental Institute will be sharing shows that making new teeth in mice could be a reality within the next five years.   He says that growing these new teeth is plausible from embryonic cells but that using adult cells coupled with growth stimulating chemical factors is a more likely option for this technology to get to the marketplace with an affordable price tag.

Two Cells Required

Dr. Sharpe says that it takes two cell types to make teeth.  Those cell types are: epithelial and mesenhymal.  He says that a message must be sent from one cell to the other to begin the process of making teeth.  His research reveals that epithelial cells seem to have the ability to respond to various oral tissues during dental surgeries but the task before them remains finding a good source of the mesenchymal cells that are able to behave in the same manner.

Stem Cells in Adult Bone Marrow

Dr. Sharpe reports that stem cells in adult bone marrow have the ability to create different types of tissues in the body but, unfortunately, they only possess this ability for about 24 hours.  Their goal is to find a way to energize those cells to produce tissue as well as to energize them into having this ability for more than 24 hours.  Apparently, some researchers have administered studies of shark and snake teeth, which are generally replaced after a tooth breaks or falls out. This stem cell-rich dental lamina is being examined thoroughly to understand how this process works. If this new and exciting research shows how epithelial and mesenchymal cells can be successfully combined, then new teeth should be capable of being created.

As they pointed out early in this article, growing new teeth in mice is likely five years down the road and who knows how much farther down the road the reality will be for humans.  So…in the meantime, it is imperative that you and every member of your family strive to achieve good or improved oral health to keep your mouths as healthy as possible and keep those precious teeth.  Your Periodontist in Long Island can help to identify and treat gum disease and periodontal diseases for you and your family. Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or pay him a visit on the web at and let him tell you how he treats gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Use Red Wine To Prevent Dental Cavities? How Does That Work? Part 2

Welcome back!  I am so glad you returned for “the rest of the story” about red wine’s healthy attributes.  Last week, we talked about how well documented the health benefits of red wine are for the heart and we briefly talked about some new information gleaned from a study recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that explained how bacteria that lives in our mouths are able to form symbiotic relationships with dental plaque and can wreak havoc in damage to our oral tissues.  This week, I want to take this discussion a bit further and talk about some interesting new strategies for antimicrobial treatments that might waiting in the wings for their proper introduction into our oral health therapies and regimens.  We’re going to talk about how red wine can help to prevent dental cavities.

The New Strategy

The researchers, noting that polyphenols from tea and cranberries and phenolic extracts from wine and grapes have recently been charged with inhibiting the growth of strains of streptococcus, used a biofilm model of a dental plaque to test their theory. They placed biofilm cultures that combined five species of bacteria known to be associated with oral disease into various mixtures.  The biofilm cultures were placed in a red wine mixture, an alcohol-free red wine mixture, red wine with grape seed extract mixture and water mixed with 12% ethanol.  The cultures were exposed to the above mixtures for a couple of minutes each.

What They Found

They found that the red wine, both with and without alcohol, as well as the combined wine and grade seed extract were the most effective at combating the bacteria.  Their conclusion:  “Our results show that red wine, at moderate concentration, inhibits the growth of some pathogenic species in an oral biofilm model.”  It was further felt by the researchers that their findings could contribute to previously discovered knowledge in regard to the benefits of red wine on human health.

Still Another Study

In still another study, recently reported in Medical News Today, questions were raised about the health benefits of the antioxidant resveratrol, which is found in grapes, berries, peanuts and chocolate, and whether it protects against cardiovascular diseases and cancer or if it really makes people live longer.  The researchers found no evidence to support the claims about resveratrol but did find positive association between the consumption of red wine, dark chocolate and berries with heart health.

So, this new research and the conclusions they found opens the door for development of new ways to use natural ingredients to protect against the formation of bacterial damage in our mouths.  But, all of this is still on the horizon for most of us. In the meantime, remember that your Periodontist in Long Island can identify and treat gum disease and periodontal disease in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or pay him a visit online and let him tell you how he can treat gum and periodontal disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Can You Say Goodbye To Root Canals? Part 1

How is THAT for an attention-getting title?  How many of you reading this article right now have suffered through the pain, discomfort and anxiety of having a root canal?  A show of hands will suffice, thank you!  How many of you are putting off that routine trip to your local dentist because you fear you will hear the words “root canal”?  Did you answer “yes” to either of these questions? Well, just maybe what I have to tell you about today will be of interest to you.  Today, I want to talk about an article I read about some new research into the possibility of changing the way dentists think about root canal as a treatment option.

Laser As A Tool

The article that I read talked about a new study the was recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.  The lead researcher in this study, Praveen Arany and colleagues went into some detail about how they used focused laser light on rats to stimulate the growth of lost calcified tissue that comprises teeth called dentin.  Their feeling was that, if this regrowth therapy works on humans, it is possible that we could see some dental procedures that require crowns, fillings and other complex procedures become a thing of the past!  I, for one, vote for that!  What an amazing possibility!  I know a lot of really courageous people who quake in their boots at the mere mention of a trip to the dentist, or who shiver and shake at the sound of the dentist’s drill!

How This Therapy Works

According to the research report, the key to the success of this procedure lies in a native protein called transforming growth factor, or TGF-beta.  The preliminary testing of dentin tissues revealed to the researchers that this growth factor was drastically altered when the focused beam of light was introduced.  When they dug more deeply into it, they found that the TGF-beta, when hit with the laser light beam, actually stimulated the stem cells that were already present in the dentin.  Once the native protein TGF-beta is turned on,  it is then able to bind to the stem cells that live in the tissue.  It can then encourage those same stems cells to begin some cellular changes that enable them to proliferate and reform dentin.

There is more information about this amazing process that is just as exciting but it will take more time than we have today.  Come back next week and we will talk more about some of the background into this research and how it can be used most effectively.  In the meantime, since this therapy is still in the research stage, it really isn’t a good idea to avoid seeing your dentist to keep up with your oral health checkups or to avoid that root canal that you may desperately need NOW.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify and treat gum and periodontal diseases (and, yes, do root canals, too) for any member of your family. Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Can Antibacterial Agents In Your Toothpast Increase It’s Effectiveness?

In these days of designer drugs and various treatments for just about every malady that humans can suffer, have you ever wondered if there is anything available to help prevent periodontal disease and tooth loss?  I am sure you have gone to your family doctor with a complaint of pain, discomfort or the like and he or she has picked up the prescription pad and written a prescription for a drug to deal with your complaint.  And, many of those drugs actually work, even at the cost of the systemic side effects!  Are you like me and have wondered if there is any simple way to control what goes on in your mouth to prevent gum disease?  Let’s talk briefly about the issue of the effectiveness of your toothpaste.

The Cochrane Library

I recently read an article about a new review that was done in The Cochrane Library.   As we all know, tooth decay and gingivitis are the leading causes of tooth loss all over the world.  It has been well documented that both of these conditions are the result of a film of bacteria called plaque that forms and builds up on the teeth.  If this film of bacteria is not appropriately treated in a timely and regular fashion, it can cause deterioration of the oral tissues that an result in periodontitis.  Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease that generally starts as gingivitis and progresses.

The Review by Cochrane Library

A team from the Cochrane Oral Health Group looked at thirty published studies of toothpastes containing triclosan and copolymer.  When they analyzed the combined data, they found a twenty-two percent reduction in plaque, a twenty-two percent reduction in gingivitis,  forty-eight percent reduction in bleeding gums and a five percent reduction in tooth decay or cavities when compared with toothpaste having fluoride alone.  They did not find any significant reduction in periodontitis, however, when they compared the data with toothpaste without the combination.  They found no reports of adverse reactions to the triclosan or copolymer.

What does this mean to you and me?  Basically, my take on this was that brushing with a good toothpaste is a very important part of your oral hygiene regimen.  I think I will chose a toothpaste that contains the combination in an attempt to control some of the early manifestations of gum inflammation that can lead to the more serious oral diseases.  If you’re not established with a dental professional, this is also a very important step that you should take for yourself and your entire family.  Your Periodontist in Long Island can help to identify and treat gum disease in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Use Red Wine to Prevent Dental Cavities? How Does That Work? Part 1

Are you a wine drinker?  Are you aware of the health benefits for your body that come from drinking red wine?  Do you know if those health benefits extend to cavity prevention in your teeth?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, or ever wondered about any of them, then you need to follow along with me while we briefly discuss how red wine an be used to prevent dental cavities.

Heart Benefits Are Well-Documented

As you may already know, there has been a great deal of research over the past few decades into heart health and the benefits of a myriad of foods, exercises and overall health habits that have positive health benefits for the heart.  Well, now a new study has been published that suggests that still another part of the body may benefit from moderate red wine consumption — namely our teeth!  Keep reading to find out the why’s and where-for’s.

New Study

A new study that was recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that discusses the enormously complex and utterly unique environment that exists within the human mouth.  The study report explains that there are literally hundreds of microbial species that are able to live together in the environment inside our mouths.  These hundreds of species of microbes are able to adhere to the “non-shedding surfaces” of our teeth.  As they adhere to those surfaces for long periods of time, formation of biofilms and dental plaque can form on the teeth.

Complicated Symbiotic Relationships

What is a symbiotic relationship, you ask?  I’m so glad you asked…because I have a fairly simple definition for you.  These relationships are a special type of interaction between species.  While sometimes they are beneficial and sometimes they are harmful, they are essential to many organisms and ecosystems.  They provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.   Why is this significant?  Because, through this symbiotic relationship process, some bacteria like streptococci or lactobacilli are able to manufacture organic acids that, when combined with fermented dietary sugars, can eventually demineralize the surface of the teeth.  This can lead to periodontal disease or tooth loss.  The study reported that sixty to ninety percent of the world population suffers from these oral maladies.  Sounds like an epidemic to me…how about you?

Is There Any Treatment for the Damage?

Periodontal disease and tooth loss have been problems plaguing the human population for centuries.  The more advanced our technology gets, the better the research and the better the research, the more information we can piece together.  Over the past few decades, antimicrobial agents have been developed and are currently being prescribed to control plaque buildup and reduce the biofilms that are described above.  However, these agents all have side effects that include reduced taste perception and discoloration of the gums…to name a few.  Also, as with any antimicrobial medication, there always exists the possibility for development of drug resistance in the bacteria.

While the research goes on to find more natural products that are more suitable and safe for long term use to control those biofilms, your Periodontist in Long Island can help to identify and treat periodontal or gum disease in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.  Oh yeah…come on back next week for “the rest of the story” and we’ll talk more about what exactly they found in their study.

Is It Possible To Choose Foods That Can Help To Improve Your Oral Health?

In these days of so many choices of toothpastes, mouthwashes, dental floss and even specialty toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental flosses, you would think it would be so easy to achieve and maintain good oral health as we age.  If you look at the oral care products that were available even just ten to twenty years ago, you would have to be blind not to see that the oral care market has literally exploded with new and better technology.  Your dentist is truly only a phone call away on most days and, for some, he or she may only be a text  or email away.  So, with all of this technology and expanded communications, why is it still so hard to achieve and maintain good oral health?  Is there anything else we, as individuals, can do to help to improve our oral health?  The answer to that question is a resounding yes!

Some Dental Problems Are Genetic

The first thing we need to mention here is the fact that not all of the damage you do to your oral tissues is necessarily voluntary.  Our genetics play a major role in the development of some oral conditions which can lead to more serious dental problems as we age.  Providing your dental professional with a good family history of dental problems can help him to guide you in  your choices and habits to minimize the genetic effect on your oral tissues as much as possible.  That being said, now let’s talk a little bit about the voluntary actions that could be affecting your mouth.

Nutritionally Speaking

Science and research has given us a great deal of information about things that can damage our teeth, bones and soft oral tissues.  If we utilize that information properly, we can save ourselves a great deal of money, time and pain in the achievement and maintenance of good oral health.  Let’s look at a few things that we might want to change:

  • For example, we know that sugar is one of the major causes of oral problems.  If you’re like the majority of the world population, you probably consume way more of it than is needed.  By choosing to consume sugar-free snacks, avoiding sugar-sweetened soft drinks and sticky sweets (like jelly beans or caramel candies), you can reduce the damage to your oral tissues.  If you really like these things and really don’t want to give them up, then try eating them with a meal so that the increased saliva flow will help to wash away the sugar residue.
  • Another example is acidic foods like grapefruit, nectarines, blackberries, tomatoes, lemons and sodas.  Research reveals that the acid in some foods could be playing a role in tooth decay.  Again, eating these foods with a meal could utilize the increased saliva flow to help wash away the acidic residue to minimize the damage to your oral tissues.

Choose instead healthy snacks like plain milk, fruit, raw veggies, plain yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, melba toast, nuts and sunflower or pumpkin seeds.  These are good for your whole body and will provide needed nutrition to help your oral tissues fight against the damage caused by genetics and other voluntary behaviors that are harming your oral tissues.  While you get you’re getting your nutritional behaviors back in order, don’t forget your regular visits to your dental professional.  Your Periodontist in Long Island can identify and treat gum disease in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him online and let him tell you how he can treat gum and periodontal diseases with a laser instead of a scalpel.



Are You Pregnant? Does Oral Health Change as Your Pregnancy Progresses? Part 2

Welcome back!  As you may recall, last week we talked about the importance of dental checkups while you are pregnant.  We discussed “pregnancy gingivitis” and a condition that can occur from the increased hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone during the pregnancy and how pre-existing gingivitis can actually worsen and develop into full blown periodontitis or gum disease during a pregnancy.  We also talked about “pregnancy tumors” , noncancerous, noncontagious growths that can develop during pregnancy and can be very uncomfortable for the mom-to-be but which normally shrink after the birth of your baby.  We also talked about the importance of good oral health as it applies to your unborn child, reporting that research has shown a direct link between gingivitis and preterm, low birth weights.  Today, we are going to discuss some  oral health care tips for expectant moms-to-be.  Come on along with me and we will get started.

  • Follow good oral hygiene practices.  It is important to brush your teeth twice a day and floss your teeth once a day.  Sometimes that age-old malady called morning sickness can affect your brushing regimen.  If this is happening, consult your dentist who may be able to recommend a toothpaste that has a more bland taste.
  • If you vomit from morning sickness be sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.  It is important to avoid brushing your teeth right after vomiting as contact with acid from the stomach can cause softening of the enamel on your teeth.
  • Eating right for healthy teeth is vital.  This is vital not only for your own teeth and overall general health but also for that of your baby!  Dairy products like cheese and yogurt are great sources of calcium.  Avoid sugary snacks if at all possible even though you may be craving them.  If nausea is a problem, try eating small amounts of healthy foods throughout the day.
  • Get a dental checkup and cleaning during the first trimester of your pregnancy.  This will help your dentist identify any problems in various stages of development that should be treated and taken care of during the second trimester or early in the third trimester.  This is the ideal time for dental work during pregnancy in relation to safety and comfort.

It is important to continue your good oral health care even after your baby is born and don’t forget about the oral health of your baby.  Ask your dentist for guidance and recommendations about caring for the oral health of your baby.   For your own oral health and that of other members of your family , your Periodontist in Long Island can identify and treat gum disease and periodontal diseases in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Are You Pregnant? Does Oral Health Change As Your Pregnancy Progresses? Part 1

The month of May was Pregnancy Awareness Month and, even though it is now June, there are some things that you should know about your pregnant condition.  It is so exciting to be expecting a child but it is important to be aware of the fact that your life, habits and behaviors are in for quite a change as your pregnancy progresses and even more so after the birth.  Good oral care for expectant mothers is vital for both mother and child.  There are some oral health changes to watch for during and after your pregnancy.   This is such an important topic and there is so much information that I want to share with you that we will be discussing it in two parts.  So, today, let’s talk a little about some of the issues.

Why is it important to have dental checkups?

Your body changes during your pregnancy…and I mean more than just the shape of it.  Hormonal changes take place — estrogen and progesterone are two major ones — and these changes can result in dental related issues.  Have you ever the heard the term “pregnancy gingivitis”?  Well, I had never heard it until I read an article on why dental checkups are important for pregnant women.  This condition is said to begin as early at the second month of the pregnancy and causes red, swollen and tender gums that are likely to bleed.  If you already suffer from gingivitis before the pregnancy, it can actually worsen during the pregnancy and can progress to periodontitis which is more commonly known as gum disease.

It’s more than just oral health

The reason for the major concern for dental health during pregnancy goes beyond just the condition of the tissues in the mouth of the expectant mother.  Pregnancy gingivitis can have an affect on your unborn child.  Research has shown that a connection exists between gingivitis and low birth weight.  This is felt to be caused by the bacteria present when the mom to be has gingivitis enters the bloodstream and travels to the uterus.  It is possible for bacteria to trigger the production of prostaglandins which can cause premature labor…definitely not a good way to begin the life of your precious child.

Another concern

Another condition that is pretty common during pregnancy is known as “pregnancy tumors”.  According to the article I read, this condition is described as noncancerous, noncontagious growths that develop when swollen gums become irritated or inflamed.  These growths are not life-threatening but they can be very uncomfortable.  Your dentist may suggest having these growths removed if they interfere with your normal good oral hygiene regimen like tooth brushing or when chewing but they usually shrink on their own after the birth of your baby.

I am sure you can see that good oral health is important before, during and after your pregnancy and it is easy to understand that it is better for your unborn child as well.  There are some tips for oral health care for expectant mothers that I will share with you next week.  Come on back for “the rest of the story”.  But, in the meantime, just remember that your Periodontist in Long Island can help to identify and treat gum and periodontal diseases in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him online at and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Have You Ever Wondered About The Age of Dental Implants?

When I asked the above question, I did not mean to ask how old are the implants in a particular person.  I was asking if you have any idea how far back into history dental implants can be traced.  I am a history buff and I really love reading books and magazines and watching videos about the historical development of cultures and things that we see around us now.   I recently read an article that caught and held my attention from start to finish.  For those of you who, like me, have an inquiring mind and simply “need to know”, come along with me while we briefly discuss what I read and learned about some potential history of dental implants.

Archaeological Find in Northern France

Believe it or not, archaeologists found a dental implant in a grave that dates back to the third century BC!  While the skeleton of the deceased female was not well-preserved, the iron pin they found was.  Apparently this female skeleton was found to have been interred in a richly furnished timber chamber and they feel that the iron pin was most likely inserted during her life to replace a lost tooth.  While the skeleton was not in the best condition, the teeth were found to be in an anatomical position, showing the molars, pre-molars, canines and incisors in appropriate position.

Can You Imagine Their Surprise?

Imagine that your digging through your garden or digging a hole somewhere on your property and you uncover the skeletal remains of a human being.  As your curiosity gets the best of you and you start to note some of the detail of your “find”, you notice a piece of metal where there should be bone or teeth.   “Whoa…what’s this?” would likely be my response to this scenario.  Guillaume Seguin, the one who excavated the remains, felt that the burial must have occurred around the time when the region’s Celtic La Tene  culture met with the Etruscan civilization of Northern Italy.

Could It Truly Be a Dental Implant?

Archaeologists acknowledge that the pin or rod could have been inserted after the death of the female in an attempt to restore visual integrity of the corpse, much like make up and other visual things are done today to make a corpse presentable for final viewing before burial.  But, it could actually be a dental implant that the Celts could have learned how to do from the Etruscans who were known for their mastery of dental things.  They also note that this type of dental procedure has not been found in Etruscan contexts to date.

While all of this conjecture definitely gives one something to think about and gets your curiosity juices flowing, I find it comforting to know that there is a possibility that dental implantation may not be as new a concept as many of us may believe.  In reality, there are probably thousands of people in the United States right now who could benefit from dental implants to return their mouths to a healthier state.  Chewing is essential for proper digestion and you can’t chew properly if you have missing teeth.  So, if you or a member of your family has missing teeth, your Periodontist in Long Island can help.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 and let him tell you how he can treat the gum disease that most likely caused the tooth loss with a laser instead of a scalpel.