Remineralization

It’s always worth reporting about leaps and bounds in different fields of medicine, and dentistry is no different. As reported by the Washington Post, researchers at King’s College in London have been working on a new method of treating minor lesions on the teeth, or cavities. Whereas older methods of treatment involves potentially painful drilling (barring the use of local anesthesia, of course), this new technology employs low frequency electrical currents. The currents are supposed to assist the “self healing process”.

Wait, “self healing”? Yes, you read that correctly. In case you didn’t know, when teeth begin to lose essential minerals, thus bringing on tooth decay, the tooth can replace those minerals with the ones that occur naturally in saliva or fluoride. It’s effective as an automatic process for what it’s worth, but for a while now researchers have been trying to figure out a way for that process to work deeper within the tooth. This technology is aiming to expedite that process.

Known as “electrically accelerated and enhanced remineralization” the new technology aims to eliminate the need for cavity fillings in the face of moderate tooth decay. Eventually, the team hopes that it will be able to assist in repairing damages caused by long term decay, too. On top of that, the technology needed for this procedure could be widely available to dentists in a number of years (the article says three). Nigel Pitts, a dentist and professor at Kings College, mentions that remineralization is no secret, and hasn’t been since the 1980’s. However, he acknowledges the challenges that came with developing a procedure that would replenish a tooth’s minerals after extensive damage had already been wrought by a cavity.

While saliva is a key component of natural remineralization, Pitts says this procedure depends on removing saliva and other tissues, leaving the tooth exposed to the introduction of replenishing minerals. Unlike fillings for cavities, remineralization is painless, costs less, and takes about the same amount of time. The greatest thing about it all, is that remineralization is a rather slow process, and the electrical current can deliver multiple weeks’ worth of  minerals in a matter of days.

With a majority of people worldwide suffering from cavities, Pitts hopes that the new process will put some people with dental fears at ease, since it’s such a painless procedure. Patient trials have been ongoing, and research is supporting the idea of this being a safe and effective procedure. However, there are tight regulations on health care in the United States, so it may be more difficult for the technology to be implemented here. However, Pitts and his team are working with international regulatory bodies to make such an introduction amenable.