Is the Dental Drill On Its Way Out?

Nobody enjoys the sound of the dentist’s drill let alone the drilling itself. However, if researchers at two British organizations continue with their project development, there will soon be available a procedure that utilizes low frequency electrical currents to deal with cavities. There may be a time in the near future when fillings for minor cavities are a thing of the past.


What It Is

The process, which is known as “electrically accelerated and enhanced remineralisation” (EAER) uses a small electric current to propel minerals onto the damaged area of the tooth. the process developed by scientists uses a tiny electric current to push minerals into the damaged area (the “cavity”). Researchers have discovered that the intense light from the laser beam blasting onto the tooth activates a chemical found in the mouth, and this “awakens” stem cells in the tooth.

New dentine was formed as a result of the stem cells just about 12 weeks afterward; dentine is the card core of the tooth that is susceptible to rot. Researchers learned that just five minutes under the laser was sufficient enough to kickstart the healing process inside the mouth.


How It Works

The tooth is repaired without the need for injections, drilling, or filling. Currently, tooth decay is removed by way of drilling, and the cavity is subsequently filled with amalgam or composite resin. The new treatment, however, promotes self-repair with the tooth by increasing the speed of the natural development of calcium and phosphate minerals into the damaged tooth.

This “remineralization” is not exactly a new concept, having first been discussed back in the 1980s. But refining the technology hasn’t been easy, and it’s just been recently that a viable option for making the technology work quickly enough to be practical has been discovered. What might have taken weeks in the past can be done in one short office visit with these new methods.

Eventually it could lead to new treatments for more advanced decay. By the time a dentist looks at an X-ray and diagnoses a patient with a cavity, he or she is seeing a tooth after it has lost minerals in the enamel and has started to decay.


What It Means

The repair of teeth today is not ideal in how it is handled. The process of putting in a filling involves drilling and refilling, often repeated, as the repair of the tooth begins to fail as the filling can cause cracking in the tooth. This new method is not only gentler to the patient but it is also much better for the teeth.

This is all great news for both kids and adults, especially considering that most people have at least one filling. What’s even better? This technology could find its way to your dentist’s office in Great Britain in just three short years. It is hoped the United States won’t be too far behind that. Estimates are that the procedure would be painless–both on the mouth and the pocketbook, given that it would cost about the same as current dental treatments.

Read more about this new technology in The Washington Post or The Guardian.