The way we repair dental cavities is not an ideal process. When enamel is damaged by decay, we have to drill it out and replace it with other materials. Although we have transitioned from metal amalgam to tooth-coloured fillings of composites and ceramics, the material we use is still not as good as natural tooth enamel.
But soon we may be able to repair cavities by regrowing dental enamel, leaving your teeth as good as they were before they were attacked by oral bacteria.
Remineralising Your Enamel
Your tooth enamel is essentially a mineral. It’s about 96% mineral tissue, much more mineral than the dentin underneath and your bone, which are both about 70% mineral. Acid excreted by bacteria in your mouth breaks down the minerals, causing it to soften and then wear away. To some extent, your body counteracts this with your saliva, which uses calcium and phosphate in your saliva to remineralise your teeth. But it’s an incomplete process and tends to be much slower than the action of bacteria breaking the enamel down.
But now researchers at King’s College in London have come up with a technique that may change the chemical balance of power in our favour. They call it Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralisation (EAER). Using an electrical current, they are able to speed up the natural process of repairing teeth. Although you may be leery of having a current set up in your mouth, they say the current is very slight and likely won’t be felt by the person during treatment. In addition to using it as a tooth repair, the process might also work as a teeth whitening treatment. And although this may seem like a far-off science fiction technology, researchers say they can bring it to the market in just three years.
The Future of Dentistry?
The three-year projection seems pretty amazing, but if the technology works and can actually be brought to the public in so short a time, we may see a complete transformation of the way we do dentistry. When you come in for your routine cleaning and check-up, we will not only clean the teeth, we will remineralize them, which would allow us to essentially protect your teeth forever, if you perform adequate care.
You may have to come in more often, but overall it would represent a huge simplification in the process. Of course, it may not completely replace fillings. If your enamel is completely eliminated in some places, we may not be able to regrow it using this process.
Still, this is truly an exciting development, and we can all look forward to a day when there is no need for drilling, fillings, and other restorations.
In the meantime, though, there is no way to replace lost tooth enamel, so you have to try to preserve it. If you are overdue for a dental check-up, please call (02) 9686 7375 to contact My Hills Dentist in Baulkham Hills today.