General care, surgery, dentistry  

Miniature ultrasound device stimulates tooth regrowth

9 July 2006

University of Alberta researchers have developed a miniaturised device that uses low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) to stimulate jaw growth and dental tissue healing in a non-invasive way.

Dr Tarak El-Bialy from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Drs Jie Chen and Ying Tsui from the Faculty of Engineering at the University have created a miniaturized ultrasound transducer on a chip that can be contained in biocompatible materials and fit comfortably in a patient's mouth. An energy sensor ensures the LIPUS power reaches the target area of the teeth roots within the bone.

The team filed the first patent recently in the U.S. and hopes to complete the miniaturized device by next year.

"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 designed for people suffering mechanical or chemical injury to dental tissue caused by diseases or hormonal disruption and experiencing dental root resorption. Orthodontic braces can also cause mechanical injury to the jaw and consequently progressive root resorption, limiting the duration that braces can be worn. The new device will help counteract the damage and still allow the corrective braces to be worn.

Egyptian-born Dr El-Bialy accidentally discovered the effect on new dental tissue when studying the use of ultrasound to stimulate bone formation after surgery to lengthen the lower jaw in rabbits. He found that the ultrasound helped to heal the jaw bone and noticed that their teeth started to grow as well. It can only affect the growth of the inner part of the teeth, however, not the enamel.

The multidisciplinary research has enabled the ultrasound device to be miniaturised and made more convenient for the patient.

Dr Ying Tsui, who is an expert in ultrasound, said that once the device has been finalised it will have additional uses such as embedding in bandages to stimulate healing of broken bones. He said that ultrasound has also been shown to stimulate growth of stem cells, the precursors of other cells and that an ultrasound device could be made to trigger these. This could open the way for the use of LIPUS to treat a range of other medical conditions.

Dr El-Bialy has also shown that LIPUS can improve jaw growth in cases with hemifacial microsomia, a congenital syndrome where one side of a child's jaw or face is underdeveloped compared to the other normal side. These patients usually undergo many surgeries to improve their facial appearance. The work on human patients was presented at the World Federation of Orthodontics in Paris, September 2005.

Link: University of Alberta:

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