Remineralise tech 'encourages' decayed teeth to self-repair
Dentists could soon be giving your teeth a mild 'time warp' to encourage them to self-repair, thanks to a new device being developed by dental researchers.
Developed by Reminova, a company from King's College, London the device aims to take the pain out of tooth decay treatment by electrically reversing the process to help teeth 'remineralise'.
With 2.3 billion sufferers annually, dental caries is one of the most common preventable diseases globally.
Tooth decay normally develops in several stages, starting as a microscopic defect where minerals leach out of tooth. Minerals continue to move in and out of the tooth in a natural cycle, but when too much mineral is lost, the enamel is undermined and the tooth is said to have developed a caries lesion (which can later become a physical cavity).
Dentists normally treat established caries in a tooth by drilling to remove the decay and filling the tooth with a material such as amalgam or composite resin.
Doing away with drills and needles
The remineralise process takes a different approach – one that re-builds the tooth and heals it without the need for drills, needles or amalgam. By accelerating the natural process by which calcium and phosphate minerals re-enter the tooth to repair a defect, the device boosts the tooth's natural repair process.
Dentistry has been trying to harness this process for the last few decades, but the King's breakthrough means the method could soon be in use at the dentist's chair.
The two-step method developed by Reminova first prepares the damaged part of the enamel outer layer of the tooth, then uses a tiny electric current to 'push' minerals into the tooth to repair the damaged site. The defect is remineralised in a painless process that requires no drills, no injections and no filling materials. Electric currents are already used by dentists to check the pulp or nerve of a tooth; the new device uses a far smaller current than that currently used on patients and which cannot be felt by the patient.
The technique, known as Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralisation (EAER), could be brought to market within three years.
The company is currently seeking private investment to develop their remineralisation device.
Professor Nigel Pitts from the Dental Institute at King's College London said: "The way we treat teeth today is not ideal – when we repair a tooth by putting in a filling, that tooth enters a cycle of drilling and re-filling as, ultimately, each 'repair' fails.
"Not only is our device kinder to the patient and better for their teeth, but it's expected to be at least as cost-effective as current dental treatments. Along with fighting tooth decay, our device can also be used to whiten teeth."