The dentist’s drill has long been a source of anxiety for sugar-snacking youths. But a new technique has the potential to treat cavities without drilling, by using a painless electrical current to heal holey choppers.
Researchers at King’s College London have developed a technique called Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralzation, in which a device they’ve dubbed a “healing hand piece” is placed over the site of a cavity. The tool emits a small electrical current that promotes the remineralization of the tooth, driving calcium, phosphate, and other substances back into the enamel, the scientists told the Washington Post (cavities happen when bacteria break down, or demineralize, the enamel with acid). The technique would take about as much time and cost about the same or less than a traditional filling, and publications describing the technique should be published “in coming months,” they said.
The technique could put an end the cycle of filling and re-filling, said King’s professor Nigel Pitts. “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,” he told The Telegraph. But this remineralization procedure only needs to be done once, he added.
A Scottish company called Reminova Ltd is trying to commercialize the technology and said it could be available in three years if enough funding is found. It could take slightly longer in the U.S., though, due to the different regulatory environment, the scientists said.