The dreaded dentist's drill and the floss-creating toothbrush may soon be a thing of the past thanks to two radical new inventions that could change the way we take care of our teeth.
Leeds Dental Institute scientists have come up with a solution that can mimic the way the body forms new teeth, and would do away with drilling and filling by making it possible for the teeth to repair themselves.
Along with this discovery, these researchers have also formulated a mouthwash that kills the plaque causing bacteria when a light is shone into the mouth.
While the researchers hope that this mouthwash would hit the market within the next 3 years, it is believed that the alternative to drilling could be ready for use within five years.
With the drilling alternative, which is derived from a new protein, it is possible to repair holes in the enamel on the surface of the tooth naturally. It works by creating a scaffold which attracts the minerals that form enamel just like the body creates new teeth.
This substance can be painted on teeth in the early stages of tooth decay for filling up tiny holes before they become large holes full of decay.
"I can't bear the noise of the drill and it is surprising how many people say just the sound is enough to instil fear. We looked at a way to treat early decay and avoid drilling," The Telegraph quoted Prof Jennifer Kirkham, Research Director at the institute, as saying.
In fact, this treatment could also be used for filling tiny holes in the teeth's dentine that is responsible for intense sensitivity to hot and cold food or drinks.
However, safety checks are already under way for the protein used in the treatment, as it is absolutely new. And Prof Kirkham hopes that it can enter trials early next year aiming to gain a licence within five years.
"We feel confident that this is a major step change for the future," she added.
Their other invention is a mouthwash using a molecule that is absorbed by bacteria in the mouth, which destroys the bug from within after being activated by a bright light- a method, called photo dynamic therapy. It was first looked at as a way of helping disabled patients to look after their teeth if they cannot use a normal toothbrush.
However, it promises that there's no risk to the patient in case the mouthwash is swallowed, as the molecule is completely safe and is already in use in the food industry.
Prof Kirkham said: "It is a safe alternative way of improving oral hygiene for those patients for whom brushing is not feasible or as an adjunct to brushing.
"At the moment we are not saying it is going to take over from brushing because the trials have not been done yet. We have to look at how much it is going to cost, at the moment is it is very cheap. We would wish to explore its full potential across the whole patient community and look at all the potential benefits over and above what is already out there."
She further said that the method could also be used to treat gum disease which is a major cause of tooth loss. It could be inserted below the gum line, by a hygienist during a routine scale and polish, with a tiny fibre optic light source to destroy the bacteria.