In the future, there may be no need for dental bridges or dentures. A new tool has been patented that can regrow the roots of weakened teeth.
The device, developed by University of Alberta scientists, consists of a tiny chip that is placed into the patient's mouth and emits ultrasound to stimulate jaw bone and tissue growth. It doesn't mean that every chip and crack in one's teeth can be mended, but for patients with damaged or decaying roots, this device may prevent the need for false teeth.
"If the root is broken, it can now be fixed," said Dr. Tarak El-Bialy, researcher from the faculty of medicine and dentistry of the University of Alberta, Canada. "And because we can regrow the [tooth's] root, a patient could have his own tooth rather than foreign objects in his mouth.
The wireless chip contains a device that emits low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS), which stimulates tissue growth in the bone and jaw. It can either be implanted into the patient's gums or even mounted on an orthodontic bracket or removable crown inside the mouth, positioned where the root growth is needed.
El-Bialy sees his device as a tool for helping patients who are experiencing root resorption, a common side effect of the use of orthodontic braces and even of some diseases. Since many orthodontic patients need to have braces removed early because of root problems, if this new chip is worn in conjunction with the braces, these patients can have their teeth fully corrected.
Additionally, the chip has shown promise in children born with birth defects in their jaw, specifically hemifacial microsomia, a condition that causes one side of the jaw to be underdeveloped.
The researchers are currently working on bringing their tooth-saving tool to market, which should be ready within the next two years.
"It's very exciting because we have something you can touch and feel that will impact the health of people throughout the world," said El-Bialy.