Drill-free trips to the dentist are around the corner!

Until now, if you had a tooth cavity a relatively uncomfortable trip to the dentist was on the cards. The dentist would have to drill away the decayed area of the tooth before filling in the gap with an artificial material. 

This material was usually a resin or silver amalgam, depending on what the dentist and patient decided. Silver amalgam lasts longer than resin but can look unsightly compared to the tooth-coloured resin. After some time, these fillings need to be replaced making the entire process inefficient, expensive and often painful.

The new treatment is called Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Mineralisation (EAER) and works to boost the flow of minerals into the tooth, allowing the tooth to eventually completely repair itself. The technology resulted from new research conducted by the Dental Innovation and Translation Centre at King's College London.

Read: How fillings work

The technique involves two steps. Firstly, the damaged tooth is prepared by removing barriers to remineralisation, such as saliva. Then a small instrument is placed onto the surface of the tooth and an imperceptible electric current drives minerals back into the tooth.

It is estimated that the process would involve around the same time and cost as a traditional filling, but would be completely painless. 

The teeth are the hardest thing in the human body but are constantly under threat of demineralisation. Calcium and phosphate are the most important minerals in tooth structure and these are what the treatment seeks to replace.

The technology could be put into practice in as little as three years, though initially it will be only be able to repair small to moderate cavities. More research and refinement is needed before the technique will be able to repair more severe lesions.

Read: How to brush your teeth properly

The idea of mineralisation is not a new one, said lead researcher Nigel Pitts when interviewed by the Washington Post, "People were talking about remineralisation in the 1980s, but it’s been hard to achieve a viable way that will remineralise established, large lesions in depth."

The hope is that by making procedures painless, patients will be less nervous about going to the dentist. This should lead to more patients going for routine check-ups and help to prevent more serious problems like gum disease.

Read more:
What to do if you've lost a filling
Bile acids used to fill cavities
Tooth fillings tied to behavioural issues 

Sources: Washington Post/Guardian/IFL Science

Image credit: Dentist drill by Shutterstock

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