A so-called gel ‘filling’ made from calcium could help bone to grow back after a tooth has been removed, stopping the jaw bone from shrinking or weakening as a result of tooth removal. Bone loss can cause problems with biting and chewing, and may make it harder to place dental implants in the future.
The gel is designed to be injected into the empty socket and is made from tiny granules of calcium phosphate – which encourages the natural tissue to grow around it; the gel will gradually dissipate over several months and the socket will be made completely of natural bone. The product is currently being tested in Nantes University Hospital in France; patients will either have the gel or no extra treatment after a molar extraction.
Damien Walmsley, professor of restorative dentistry at the University of Birmingham and scientific advisor to the British Dental Association, called the development ‘an interesting idea’ and explained that ‘bone grows slowly, while soft tissue grows rapidly. This approach allows the cavity to be filled with bone rather than soft tissue. It seems like a good approach to preserving the bone.’
Further trials are going on in Switzerland, at the University of Bern, where forty patients will be treated with and without the gel to see how well it works.