Last Updated: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 | 1:47 PM ET
A tiny ultrasound device could help people regrow teeth, researchers at the University of Alberta say.
The prototype device offers a way to reform human dental tissue for the first time, the team said Wednesday.
Everyone from hockey players to children who knock out a tooth could benefit.
The treatment, called low-intensity pulsed ultrasound, massages the gums to stimulate jaws, encourage growth in the roots of teeth and aid healing in dental tissue.
“If the root is broken, it can now be fixed,” said Dr. Tarak El-Bialy of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. “And because we can regrow the teeth root, a patient could have his own tooth rather than foreign objects in his mouth.”
El-Bialy discovered ultrasound could be used to form new dental tissue from his research on rabbit incisors, which was published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
He then tested the technique on people who needed to get their teeth pulled.
Participants held the bulky ultrasound device for 20 minutes a day for four weeks against a tooth that had a problem, such as erosion after a root canal.
When El-Bialy looked at the extracted teeth under the microscope, he found new tissue was added to the roots of treated teeth, but not to untreated ones. The therapy regenerates the inner part of the tooth, but not the enamel.
He then teamed up with engineers Jie Chen and Ying Tsui to make the ultrasound device smaller so it could fit comfortably inside a patient’s mouth.
The prototype can be mounted on braces or a plastic removable crown.
The team has filed for a patent on their prototype in the U.S. They expect to have a version that is ready for patients within two years.