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News / May 28, 2009

Cow’s milk could help regrow tooth enamel

by Guy Hiscott

A dentist has discovered a way to make decayed tooth enamel re-grow using a substance isolated from cow’s milk.

The treatment works while people 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.


Dr Nathan Cochrane, of the Cooperative Research Centre for Oral Health Science, explained: ‘The localised application of the mineral treatment re-grows the crystals of the tooth, repairing damaged tooth enamel.’


He outlined the system at the Pathfinders: the Innovators Conference at the National Convention Centre in Canberra, Australia.


He added: ‘Working as a dentist I see how teeth with fillings in them often weaken. I wanted to find out whether a chemical process could be used to replace the minerals lost from teeth through decay.’


Working with 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 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 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.