A Tooth for a Tooth

 What happens if one of your teeth goes AWOL? Currently, the stump will be extracted or covered with a porcelain crown--both procedures that are less than optimal.

That may soon change, though, thanks to some Canadian scientists at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. In June, the researchers filed a patent for a new device that is supposed to help re-grow missing teeth.

The tool, which operates with low-intensity pulsed ultrasound, has so far only been tested on a dozen dental patients in Canada, but apparently with great success.

"Right now, we plan to use it to fix fractured or diseased teeth, as well as asymmetric jawbones, but it may also help hockey players or children who had their tooth knocked out," Jie Chen, an engineering professor and nano-circuit design expert, told AFP.

The tiny device, which gently massages gums and stimulates tooth growth from the root, is smaller than a pea and will be worn in the mouth, mounted on braces or plastic crowns. It will have to be activated for 20 minutes per day for four months to stimulate new growth, says Chen.

Even though the new technology is still at the prototype stage, the research team expects to commercialize it within the next two years.

The only downside: part of the tooth still has to be in place. We hope the next stage will be a solution that naturally replaces extracted teeth.

Posted 07-11-2006 10:30 PM by Doug Casey