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posted by Woods on Wednesday June 18 2014, @11:35PM   Printer-friendly
from the making-dentists-slightly-less-scary dept.

The dreaded whirring and grinding of dental drills could soon become a thing of the past as the Guardian reports that scientists at King's College London have developed a new pain-free filling that allows cavities to be repaired without drilling or injections. The tooth-rebuilding technique also does away with fillings and instead encourages teeth to repair themselves.

Around 2.3 billion people are believed to suffer from tooth decay every year, making it one of the most common preventable diseases in the world. Cavities start as a microscopic defect where minerals leak out of the tooth and the enamel is eventually undermined. The new treatment, called Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralisation (EAER), accelerates the natural movement of calcium and phosphate minerals into the damaged tooth by first preparing the damaged area of enamel, then using a tiny electric current to push minerals into the repair site. "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," says Professor Nigel Pitts. "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."

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  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Twike on Thursday June 19 2014, @01:42AM

    by Twike (483) <> on Thursday June 19 2014, @01:42AM (#57215)

    Having broken with tradition and read the article, I do not understand how this will replace fillings. It sounds like it's a solution for "re-strengthening" or "re-mineralizing" teeth, up to the point of possibly depositing a new veneer of enamel on viable tooth substrate, but what about times where the cavity is literally a hole in the tooth with a bulk of missing material? How long would repair of a fairly decayed tooth that needs more than a little extra enamel but is still in "filling" territory take to repair via this method? Can this be used to "un-do" existing fillings as they need to be replaced?

    When reading my list of questions, do you feel it needs "Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat channel", or did you read it in that style?

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  • (Score: 1) by Gertlex on Thursday June 19 2014, @01:55AM

    by Gertlex (3966) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 19 2014, @01:55AM (#57222)

    I imagine they're glossing it over. I suspect it really just helps those who get annual x-rays, perhaps. I know my two weak spots that were treated as cavities showed up on an xray without ever bothering me.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19 2014, @02:21AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19 2014, @02:21AM (#57230)
    For existing damage, it could be combined with something like this []. Certainly not something you'll get at your next visit, but may be possible in your lifetime.
  • (Score: 2) by broken on Thursday June 19 2014, @02:50AM

    by broken (4018) on Thursday June 19 2014, @02:50AM (#57241) Journal

    From the articles, it does sound like this just repairs demineralized teeth. If caught and treated before a cavity forms, this can prevent the need for fillings. After a cavity forms, drilling is first used to remove the demineralized parts of the tooth after which the hole is filled. So although the cavity would still be filled in the traditional way, this treatment could replace the drilling prior to filling the cavity.

    I can see how theoretically a treatment similar to this could also fill in cavities by depositing new minerals layer by layer, but the crystalline structure of this material would likely be different and may not be as effective as standard fillings with regard to strength or adhesion. If their treatment is actually capable of filling teeth in this way, I would have expected it to be mentioned in the article.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19 2014, @03:28AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19 2014, @03:28AM (#57250)

      I'm not a dentist, but my understanding is that the main cause of filling failure is a difference between the thermal expansion rates of the filling and the tooth. A better match there might be preferable to a stronger material. Either way, this is nowhere near as ready for wide use as the summary makes it seem.

  • (Score: 2) by CoolHand on Thursday June 19 2014, @11:13AM

    by CoolHand (438) on Thursday June 19 2014, @11:13AM (#57361) Journal

    Right, it sounds great for my kids and grandkids, but I'm not holding out much hope that its going to magically replace my huge fillings or regrow my teeth where I just have stubs covered by crowns..

    Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job-Douglas Adams
  • (Score: 2) by Rivenaleem on Thursday June 19 2014, @01:04PM

    by Rivenaleem (3400) on Thursday June 19 2014, @01:04PM (#57400)

    I want to hear more progress on the method of re-triggering the growth of the teeth by using lasers to activate the stem cells. That sounds more promising than this method.