A dentist has found a way to make decayed tooth enamel re-grow, thus eliminating the necessity of fillings.
The treatment works by delivering a powerful solution of calcium, fluoride and phosphate to the affected tooth during sleep. They are the building blocks of tooth enamel. The tooth absorbs the solution from a small tray fitted into the mouth overnight.
The localised application of the mineral treatment re-grows the crystals of the tooth, repairing damaged tooth enamel, said Nathan Cochrane, of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Oral Health Science.
Working as a dentist I see how teeth with fillings in them often weaken, he said. I wanted to find out whether a chemical process could be used to replace the minerals lost from teeth through decay.
Working with world renowned tooth remineralisation expert, Eric Reynolds, a professor and colleagues at the CRC, Cochrane discovered that a substance isolated from cow's milk could be used to stabilise the calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions, allowing them to diffuse into tooth enamel and embed themselves in the crystal lattice.
To prevent saliva from diluting the mineral solution, he developed a small tray that fits over the tooth and focuses the solution on it. The device has been patented, said a CRC release.
Dentists who have patients showing signs of early decay will be able to prescribe the nightly use of the remineralisation treatment for a given period, potentially avoiding treatments such as fillings and extractions, said Cochrane.
He will outline his system at the Pathfinders: the Innovators Conference at the National Convention Centre in Canberra May 26.