New caries treatment helps remineralize teeth

2014 06 16 13 17 18 964 Amalgam Filling 200

U.K. researchers have developed a tooth-rebuilding technique that could do away with restorations by using an electric current to help remineralize teeth.

The process aims to take the pain out of caries treatment by electrically reversing the process to help teeth rebuild themselves without the need for drills, needles, or filling materials.

Nigel Pitts, BDS, PhD

The technique, known as electrically accelerated and enhanced remineralization, could be brought to market within three years. It was developed by Reminova, a spin-off company from King's College London that launched this year. The research was conducted by Nigel Pitts, BDS, PhD, and Christopher Longbottom, PhD, from the Dental Institute at King's College London.

"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," Dr. Pitts said in a press release. "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."

By accelerating the natural process by which calcium and phosphate minerals re-enter the tooth to repair a defect, the Reminova device boosts the tooth's natural repair process. This process has been investigated for years, but this could be the first technique that makes it to the marketplace.

“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 refilling as, ultimately, each 'repair' fails.”
— Nigel Pitts, BDS, PhD

The two-step method 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 remineralized in a painless process that requires no drills, injections, or filling materials, according to the researchers. Electric currents are currently used by dentists to check the pulp or nerve of a tooth; the new device uses a far smaller current than what is now used on patients and which cannot be felt by patients.

The company was formed in collaboration with Innova Partnerships, a company that commercializes healthcare and life science enterprises. It is the first spin-off from the King's College London Dental Innovation and Translation Centre. The center was formed in 2013 to take research and novel technologies and turn them into products, change practice, and inform policy that will improve health and healthcare internationally.

Reminova will be based in Perth, Scotland, to benefit from the strong life sciences and dentistry base. It will commercialize the work of Dr. Pitts and Longbottom. The pair have a combined 80 years of experience in dentistry and have previously brought dental devices to market to detect tooth decay.

Reminova was formed in collaboration with Innova Partnerships, which commercializes health and life science enterprises. The company is currently seeking private investment to develop the remineralization device.

Some 2.3 billion people worldwide have caries annually, making it one of the most common preventable diseases globally.

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