University of Alberta researchers have created a miniature wireless ultrasound transducer that can encourage new teeth to grow after mechanical or chemical damage.
Using low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS), Dr. Tarak El-Bialy from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Dr. Jie Chen and Dr. Ying Tsui from the Faculty of Engineering created a non-invasive system-on-a-chip that stimulates jaw growth and dental tissue healing.
The wireless design of the ultrasound transducer means the tiny device will be able to fit comfortably inside a patient’s mouth while packed in biocompatible materials. The unit could be mounted on an orthodontic or “braces” bracket or a plastic removable crown. The team also designed an energy sensor that will ensure the LIPUS power is reaching the target area of the teeth roots within the bone.
“If the root is broken, it can now be fixed,” said El-Bialy. “And because we can regrow the teeth root, a patient could have his own tooth rather than foreign objects in his mouth.”
The device is aimed at those experiencing dental root resorption, a common effect of mechanical or chemical injury to dental tissue caused by diseases and endocrine disturbances. Mechanical injury from wearing orthodontic braces causes progressive root resorption, limiting the duration that braces can be worn. This new device will work to counteract the destructive resorptive process while allowing for the continued wearing of corrective braces.
“After proving it worked, we looked at creating a smaller ultrasound carrier where we can take the patient out as a variable,” said El-Bialy. “Before this, a patient has to hold the ultrasound for 20 minutes a day for a year and that is a lot to ask.”
The researchers are currently working on turning their prototype into a market-ready model and expect the device to be ready for the public within next two years.