The device is smaller than a pea, and massages gums and stimulates tooth growth from the jaw when placed in the mouth. According to Jie Chen, an engineering professor and nanocircuit design expert who helped design the device, it can also stimulate jawbone growth to fix a crooked smile, and may eventually be able to stimulate general bone growth.
"Right now, we plan to use it to fix fractured or diseased teeth, as well as asymmetric jawbones, but it may also help hockey players or children who had their tooth knocked out," Chen said.
The technology, which was tested on 12 dental patients in Canada, was developed from a larger version of the device that University of Alberta dental faculty member Tarek El-Bialy used in the late 1990s to repair dental tissue in rabbits.
The device was reduced to its current size with the help of Chen and another engineering professor at the university, Ying Tsui. The trio expects to commercialize it within two years, after it is developed beyond the prototype stage.
Chen added that the larger version has already received approval from both American and Canadian regulatory bodies.
The device does not actually re-grow bone tissue by itself; it induces the body to activate its own natural bone-growing abilities. The breakthrough technology is the latest in the field of vibrational medicine, where electricity, sound, light and physical vibrations are harnessed to activate healing responses by the human body.