Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Remineralization Device Could Soon Come to Market

A new device being developed by dental researchers at King's College London could soon bring to market an electronic tool that would encourage teeth to remineralize. 

Demineralization and remineralization have a crucial impact on the hardness and strength of tooth enamel.

What is demineralization?
Poor hygiene, bad brushing techniques, as well an inappropriate diet can lead to tooth decay due to changed acid levels in the oral cavity. Demineralization occurs at a low pH (acidic) when the oral environment is UNDERsaturated with mineral ions. Acids demineralize the tooth structure by dissolving calcium, phosphorus, etc. The enamel is dissolved by these organic acids (lactic and acetic acids) that are produced by the cellular action of plaque bacteria in the presence of dietary carbohydrates. This enamel erosion leads to dental cavities. 

Demineralized surfaces are porous and adherent, thus becoming favorable to bacteria growth that causes dental cavities and decay. In other words, enamel demineralization equals the beginning of cavity formation. Often, as a result of smoothness reduction, the tooth surface may suffer from superficial pigmentation, which can be visually unpleasant and impossible to remove with the toothbrush. 

Demineralized teeth are very sensitive to diverse stimuli: sensitive to hot and cold foods and drinks, as well as sensitive to the touch; brushing can be uncomfortable, even painful, and the patient can be tempted to skip brushing or cut it short, which is usually fatal for his or her teeth. When demineralized hypersensitive teeth are not properly cleaned, severe dental cavities affect the entire dental structure. Treatment becomes difficult. Patients need to understand that this condition appears as a result of an infection that can easily get out of control if hygiene is neglected.

What is remineralization?
Remineralization allows the loss of calcium, phosphate, and fluoride ions to be replaced. 

How do dentists fix cavities now?
With 2.3 billion affected annually, dental caries is one of the most common preventable diseases globally. Tooth decay normally develops in several stages, starting as a microscopic defect where minerals leach out of tooth. Dentists normally treat established caries in a tooth by drilling to remove the decay and filling the tooth with a material such as amalgam or composite resin. 

What can this tool do?
Reminova Ltd, a company that emerged from King's College London Dental Innovation and Translation Centre, takes a different approach - one that rebuilds the tooth and heals it without the need for drills, needles, or amalgam. By accelerating the natural process by which calcium and phosphate minerals re-enter the tooth to repair a defect, the device boosts the tooth's natural repair process.

How would the tool work?
Electric currents already used to check pulp/nerve of a tooth
The two-step method developed by Reminova first prepares the damaged part of the enamel outer layer of the tooth and then uses a tiny electric current to "push" minerals into the tooth to repair the damaged site. The defect is remineralized in a painless process that requires no drills, no injections, and no filling materials. Electric currents are already used by dentists to check the pulp or nerve of a tooth; the new device uses a far smaller current than that currently used on patients and cannot be felt by the patient. The technique, known as Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralization (EAER), could be brought to market within 3 years.

What is the company?
Reminova Ltd will be based in Perth, Scotland, to benefit from the strong life sciences and dentistry base. It will commercialize the work of Professor Nigel Pitts and Dr. Chris Longbottom, based in the Dental Institute at King's College London. With a combined 80 years' experience in dentistry, they have previously brought dental devices to market to detect tooth decay. The company, formed in collaboration with Innova Partnerships, is currently seeking private investment to develop their remineralization device. 

Who are the designers?
Kit Malthouse, chair of MedCity and London's deputy mayor for business and enterprise, commented, "It's brilliant to see the really creative research taking place at King's making its way out of the lab so quickly and being turned into a new device that has the potential to make a real difference to the dental health and patient experience of people with tooth decay."



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