A team of researchers at King’s College London have developed a completely painless method to reverse tooth decay by encouraging teeth to repair themselves. The method is still a long way off wide-spread commercial use but scientists believe that the technology could mean that cavities no longer need to be treated with drilling and fillings, particularly cavities in young children.
Dental caries is one of the most common preventable diseases, with about 2.3 billion people suffering from it every year worldwide.
Caries or decay is the result of oral bacteria acting on sugar to create acid which will dissolve tooth tissue. The dissolution of tooth with this acid lasts for approximately one hour.
When a tooth starts decaying, dentists usually drill inside the enamel to remove the decay and then fill in the cavity with a substance like amalgam or composite resin to seal it off. However, for younger children, the filling of milk teeth has divided opinion.
However scientists at KCL believe this way of treating decay is not the optimal solution. Instead, the method known as Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralisation (EAER) allows the tooth to self-repair, as a slight electric current stimulated the natural regeneration of calcium and phosphates in the tooth.
According to Professor Nigel Pitts from King’s College London’s Dental Institute, the technology can be as cost-effective as the current available treatments of tooth decay, but it is better for patients and gentler on their teeth. Fillings often lead to a repeated repair cycle and the new method could eliminate this problem, he added.
Researchers believe the method could reach dental clinics in about three years.