Scientists in the UK are developing a new dental technique that could eliminate the need for drilling and fillings.
Researchers at King’s College London are working on a tooth-rebuilding treatment that helps decayed teeth to repair themselves, reports the Daily Mail.
Dentists normally remove tooth decay by drilling, after which the cavity is filled with a material such as amalgam or composite resin.
The new two-step process, called Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralization (EAER), accelerates the natural movement of calcium and phosphate minerals into the damaged tooth.
The innovative treatment, to be commercialized by Reminova Ltd, prepares the damaged area of the enamel, then uses a tiny electric current to push minerals into the tooth to repair the damaged site.
The tooth is remineralized in a painless process that involves no injections, no drills and no filling materials.
Electric currents are already used by dentists to check the pulp or nerve of a tooth, notes The Independent.
The new technique may be available on the market in just three short years.
“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,” professor Nigel Pitts from the Dental Institute at King’s College London said in a statement.
“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,” Pitts said. “Along with fighting tooth decay, our device can also be used to whiten teeth.”
While the technique is expected to replace the need for many existing fillings, the electric current probably will not work on late-stage cavities.
"What it won't do is physically re-grow a tooth," Pitts told BBC News.