New Treatment Re-grows Decayed Tooth Enamel

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19th May 2009, 11:02am - Views: 719

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20 May 2009

New treatment re-grows decayed tooth enamel

Embargoed till first editions/bulletins Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Third generation dentist Nathan Cochrane has made a breakthrough that would have amazed his

great grandfather—a way to make decayed tooth enamel re-grow, reversing tooth decay and

avoiding the need for fillings.

The treatment works while you sleep by delivering to the affected tooth a powerful solution of

calcium, fluoride and phosphate, the building blocks of tooth enamel. The tooth absorbs the solution

from a small tray fitted into the mouth overnight. 

“The localised application of the mineral treatment re-grows the crystals of the tooth, repairing

damaged tooth enamel,” said Dr Cochrane, of the Cooperative Research Centre for Oral Health

Science. He will outline the system at the Pathfinders: the Innovators Conference at the National

Convention Centre in Canberra next week (Tuesday, May 26).

“Working as a dentist I see how teeth with fillings in them often weaken” he said. “I wanted to find

out whether a chemical process could be used to replace the minerals lost from teeth through


Working with world renowned tooth remineralisation expert, Professor Eric Reynolds, and colleagues

at the CRC, Dr Cochrane discovered that a substance isolated from cow’s milk could be used to

stabilise the calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions, allowing them to diffuse into tooth enamel and

embed themselves in the crystal lattice.

To prevent saliva from diluting the mineral solution, he developed a small tray that fits over the tooth


Community Health Cooperative Research Centres Association 4 image

and focuses the solution on it. The device has been patented.

“Dentists who have patients showing signs of early decay will be able to prescribe the nightly use of

the remineralisation treatment for a given period, potentially avoiding treatments such as fillings and

extractions,” said Dr Cochrane. 

Dr Cochrane’s great-grandfather, an engineer who later trained as a dentist, would have been

astounded by the treatment pioneered by the dentist-turned-scientist. 

Dr Cochrane is one of eight early career scientists invited to present their research results at the

Pathfinders Conference, organised by the Cooperative Research Centres Association. The CRCA

represents Australia’s 50 CRCs operating under a federal government program to drive public/private

sector research.

Caption for accompanying image:

Dr Nathan Cochrane at work in the lab. He has developed a new way to fight tooth decay. 

Information: Dr Nathan Cochrane, CRC for Oral Health Science Ph 0401 678 143

Kerryn Garner, Communications Manager, CRC for Oral Health Science Ph 0449 508 393.

CRCA Media Ph 0419 250 815; Email

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