This is big news that has been released by media circles and I am sure our patients will be wanting to know more.
Academics from Kings College, London, have discovered that introducing an electric current to teeth pushes minerals into the decay site, essentially allowing the tooth to repair the site naturaly. This process is known as Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralisation (EAER).
To see the article on this click here.
My Professional Opinion:
– We are yet to see all the evidence from clinical trials and it is likely that it’s application will be limited to ‘small’ decay areas, and I can’t see how it will change existing treatment modalities for secondary decay (decay under existing restorations), and interproximal decay (decay that is not contained within the walls of the teeth).
– We already know that the topical application of the correct minerals (namely calcium, phosphate and fluoride) help prevent early decay that is on enamel. It will be far more cost effective to use already existing products such as duraphat and tooth mouse to help prevent decay in the first instance.
– Be careful with media hype – lasers were the craze a few years back as we could promise patients fillings with no anaesthetic. I find they have limited use in dentistry when it comes to treatment of decay (it takes ages to drill a tooth with a laser). They are good for contouring soft tissues ie shaping gums, but for the limited times we need to do this, they were not worth the investment.
– There have been numerous studies on the use of ozone for treating decay, again promising patients no drill, but it’s application is very limited. I can see the new research on ‘EAER’ leaving us with the same result as that which ozone does. Not many dentists invested in ozone treatment for their patients as it was not cost effective.
– Anaesthetics have come on a long way. We can offer pain free treatment of teeth with local anaesthetic, in a predictable operative procedure by using a drill, so do we need another option?
– The treatment will doubtful improve the look of an area that is being treated for decay. When decay occurs in front teeth especially, it is unsightly. The ‘EAER’ may be able to halt the decay and ‘remineralise’ the lesion but this is likely to look like ‘arrested decay’ in which the patient will still want to have an ‘invisible / white filling’ for. Therefore this will likely be restricted for use on back teeth out of the aesthetic part of the mouth.
– Will it be a ‘one-off’ treatment? – I doubt it. People get tooth decay as specific bacteria feed on sugars in the mouth, and give off acids that attacks the teeth. It will be interesting to see how they recommend we dentists are to implement the treatment. I cannot comment any further until we know more.
CONCLUSION is that it is exciting research. When used it will definitely help dentists offer a minimally invasive treatment option as it allows nature to repair the disease process, rather than surgical intervention. However, unless it is cost effective it will have a difficulty getting in to the dental market. There will always be a need for a drill in dentistry. But, the more things we can do that require us not using a drill, the better, so I welcome new treatments.