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.
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
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: