Scientists develop a dental treatment that could vastly reduce the need for unpleasant trips to the dentists, with teeth painlessly repaired using electrical pulses to re-grow natural tooth enamel. Matthew Stock reports.
A trip to the dentist is something many people dread. If they spot a cavity, the usual course of action is an anaesthetic injection followed by the decay being drilled out and replaced with a filling. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. REBECCA MOAZZEZ (pron. Mo-ah-zez), CLINICAL SENIOR LECTURER/CONSULTANT & HEAD OF ORAL CLINICAL UNIT AT KINGS COLLEGE LONDON, SAYING: "But the problem with that is, once you start in that cycle - fillings don't last forever - so the fillings will need to be repaired and replaced. And you're really in that cycle of repair and replacement for the rest of the tooth's life." But a new prototype dental treatment could help break this cycle, reversing the damage that could lead to cavities. British company Reminova have hit upon a way to speed up the process by which teeth naturally repair themselves. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JEFF WRIGHT, CEO OF REMINOVA (pron. Re-min-over), SAYING: "Trying to supercharge a natural process, whereby this process called re-mineralisation that happens in your mouth all the time, and we've just found a way to make that a much faster process. Driving healthy calcium and phosphate minerals into your enamel, and through a natural process it will bind on and add to the enamel that's there." The patient's tooth is first cleaned, and minerals applied to the lesion. A tiny electrical pulse is then applied which pushes the mineral ions into the cavity, triggering remineralisation from the deepest part of the lesion. It takes about as long as having a filling. But with no injections or drilling, the makers say, it's completely painless. Dentists say it could be a useful tool - though tooth brushing and cleaning are still the best way to prevent cavities. Stopping decay in children's teeth at an early age is also vital they say. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. BARRY QUINN, CONSULTANT AT KING'S COLLEGE LONDON, SAYING: "If you can prevent decay in children then they will become adults with no fillings, so that is a very key market... Also, if children have a better experience of going to the dentist, so they haven't had necessary drilling and injections for routine fillings, then they'll be much more positive in later life and probably become much more regular patients." Reminova are now looking for further investment before moving into clinical trials and turning their prototype into a device ready for dental surgeries.