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Jul 09, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- DRILL FREE ALTERNATIVE TO ROOT CANAL

Root canals at the dentist's office now can be done faster, for less money and without drilling, dentists say. Dr. Michael Teitelbaum, a member of the American Academy of Dentistry, says he uses a new bonding technique that could vastly reduce the more than 14 million traditional root canals performed every year. "Bonded direct pulp capping" is an alternative for patients whose tooth nerve remains alive after decay removal. The dentist covers the nerve with a plastic substance similar to contact lens material, which forms an airtight seal, creating a "direct pulp cap." He says it eliminates the need for a root canal more than 90 percent of the time.


A University of Texas Southwestern researcher says a new machine for LASIK surgery can help patients who are nearsighted and also suffer from astigmatism. Dr. James McCulley says the Food and Drug Administration has approved VISX CustomVue, which expands the parameters of treatable astigmatism -- where images appear blurry because the eye's surface does not curve properly. He says it gives new hope to some patients who previously were not candidates for the corrective surgery. The new ablation technology allows ophthalmologists to map the eye's fingerprint by taking detailed measurements not possible with older versions of LASIK.


There is compelling evidence to show taking an aspirin daily can ward off cancer but researchers caution little is known about the long-term risks. University of Texas Southwestern researchers say aspirin is thought to block mutations that cause cells to wildly reproduce, and it also might encourage cancer cells to self-destruct. Dr. Carlos Becerra says future studies "will try to delineate better which populations will benefit most from acetylsalicylic acid intervention and in which individuals the potential toxicity precludes its use." It still is not known what dosage is appropriate or how long aspirin must be taken before offering protection. Aspirin also can cause side effects, such as internal bleeding, and interact dangerously with other drugs. Doctors recommend only people age 40 or older take aspirin as a preventive medicine.


Australian researchers have developed a non-invasive test that provides faster, cheaper and less risky prenatal genetic screening. The new test also can be done much earlier in pregnancy and Dr. Ian Findlay, one of the developers at the Australian Genome Research Facility in Brisbane, says it should open up prenatal genetic testing to a wider group of women. The new test is based around PAP smears, normally taken for cancer screening. Cells from the fetus are isolated, genetically identified and screened for a wide range of abnormalities, such as Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis. Current prenatal tests often involve putting a needle into the womb to obtain fluid, which carries a risk of miscarriage.


(Editors: For more information about DRILL FREE, contact Susan Urbanczyk at (312) 440-4308 or e-mail For ASTIGMATISM and ASPIRIN, call the UT Southwestern Medical Center at (214) 648-3404, and for PRENATAL, Darryl Irwin in Australia at +61-0412-779-528)

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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