29 August 2011

New procedure "rebuilds" teeth

by Kate Melville

University of Leeds researchers say dentists will soon have access to a new pain-free way of tackling dental decay that reverses the damage of acid attack and rebuilds teeth as new - all without drilling or filling.

Tooth decay typically begins when acid produced by bacteria in plaque dissolves minerals in the teeth, causing microscopic pores to form. As the decay process progresses, these micro-pores increase in size and number. Eventually the damaged tooth is either drilled and filled or removed.

But researchers at the University of Leeds say they have developed a revolutionary new way to treat the first signs of tooth decay. Their solution is to use a peptide-based fluid that is painted onto the tooth's surface. The peptide stimulates regeneration of the tooth defect.

"This may sound too good to be true, but we are essentially helping acid-damaged teeth to regenerate themselves. It is a totally natural non-surgical repair process and is entirely pain-free too," said Professor Jennifer Kirkham, who has led the development of the new technique.

The fluid was designed by researchers in the University of Leeds' School of Chemistry, led by Dr Amalia Aggeli. It contains a peptide known as P 11-4 that - under certain conditions - will assemble together into fibres. When applied to the tooth, the fluid seeps into the micro-pores caused by acid attack and then spontaneously forms a gel. This gel then provides a framework that attracts calcium and regenerates the tooth's mineral from within, providing a natural and pain-free repair.

The technique was recently taken out of the laboratory and tested on a small group of adults whose dentist had spotted the initial signs of tooth decay. The results from this small trial have shown that P 11-4 can reverse the damage and regenerate the tooth tissue.

"The results of our tests so far are extremely promising," say the researchers. "If these results can be repeated on a larger patient group, then I have no doubt whatsoever that in two to three years time this technique will be available for dentists to use in their daily practice."

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Source: University of Leeds