Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs

Medical Breakthroughs
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Inspiration can strike us in different ways and in the most unexpected places. Here's a story of a doctor in New Orleans who found an easier way to perform difficult dental procedures just by turning on the TV.

Smiles come naturally to Mignon Wolfe, but she used to avoid them. "If you're having a lose tooth anywhere in your mouth, you're conscious of it. But to have it as your major front tooth."

The culprits were an infection and bone loss deep in the gum. "Up here was the one that was causing all the problems." Endodontic specialist Ron Lemon had a revolutionary material, known as MTA that could seal off the problem. But he had no way to get it where it was needed.

"Imagine mixing sand and water and trying to manipulate very small quantities of that material into very small spaces, because it has no flow characteristics."

Doctor Lemon says a television documentary on Hoover Dam helped solve the problem. He watched how engineers overcame obstacles with cement pouring.

"They found that the answer or one of the answers, to this was to vibrate the mixtures to give the concrete flow properties. And when I really thought about it, it was only a problem of scale."

He invented a vibrating ultrasonic applicator that allows the gritty dental material to mix with water. It stays putty-like until it is placed. Difficult root canals and traumatized teeth are among the many problems that can now be helped. "I feel like I should put a heart right on that tooth, because I'm so excited it's still there.”

Doctor Lemon says children with decayed teeth or who have had their permanent teeth knocked out, will benefit form this device.