Dental device will help kids with cleft palates

A dentistry professor who won a $1 million grant to extend his tooth regrowth study is now seeking funds for a new innovation that aids children with cleft palates.

The dental device expands the teeth and jaw gradually without the need for painful surgery.

Dr Tarek El-Bialy is an associate professor of orthodontics and biomedical engineering with department of dentistry at the University of Alberta in Canada.

His new device sits on the outside of the teeth and pulls outward on them and the jaw at the same time.

If children with cleft palates begin wearing them at seven years old, their jaws could grow and stretch at the same time, preventing the need for a surgeon to cut their jaws to allow for expansion.

The device doesn’t impede the natural position of the tongue.

Dr El-Bialy says: ‘I’m looking for a company right now to get it from the prototype to the commercialisation so the patient can use it.’

Dr El-Bialy hit the headlines four years ago after his research into using ultrasound to regenerate teeth was made public.

His earlier study showed that low-intensity pulsed ultrasound, applied to teeth for 20 minutes a day for four weeks, massages the gums to stimulate jaws, thus encouraging growth in the roots of teeth and aiding healing in dental tissue.

The device subsequently developed helps prevent further degeneration of dental roots.

With the new research grant, he plans to study how a patient’s own oral tissue stem cells can aid regrowth of roots.

The work is particularly important for people who wear braces, which can cause root degeneration, he said.

If the research is successful, the treatment could also help people suffering from bone loss due to gum disease.

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