Humans have invented all kinds of high-tech fixes to deal with plaque in the heart, but when it comes to battling tooth decay, a manual scrubbing with a bristle-brush is still our primary line of defense. But Dutch researchers may have just bested the toothbrush by characterizing and deciphering the structure of the enzyme responsible for plaque sticking to teeth. By adding an inhibitor to toothpaste or even to the food we eat, tooth decay and cavities could soon become a rarity.
Bacteria love hanging out between your teeth—food gets caught there, and brushing can’t reach all the germs. If the bugs settle in and form a cavity, your dentist must drill through your tooth just to get at it. But now dentists can trade their drills for a simple treatment that stops early-stage cavities.
For those of you who think that sonic micropulses are the future of tooth care, prepare to set your faces to stun. Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) have developed a tiny, cool, plasma blowtorch that breaks apart the sticky bonds that holds plaque to a tooth. However, unlike the hot plasma at the center of stars and lightning bolts, this plasma torch is no warmer than room temperature, as demonstrated here by an especially daring dentist.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.