Millions of people in the UK could soon be spared the pain of sensitive teeth thanks to an exciting discovery in the Leeds dental institute.
The problem currently affects around 15 per cent of the adult population and rising, as people retain their teeth for longer. The most common cause is receding gums, resulting from teeth grinding, abrasion or tooth decay, which exposes the dentine.
Professor Jack Toumba and Dr Gayatri Kotru have discovered that fluoride beads inserted into brackets in the mouth appear to eliminate tooth sensitivity entirely. The researchers made this chance finding in 1999 when a volunteer testing the effect of the fluoride beads on tooth decay said her tooth sensitivity had disappeared.
They followed this with a small trial of sufferers and found that in every case the sensitivity totally disappeared. "The beads have a two in one effect although we were focusing on decay, in doing so we discovered that it had a positive effect on tooth sensitivity," said Dr Kotru. "We were inspired to take this a step further."
They are now embarking on a full-scale study of 100 volunteers with tooth sensitivity, giving half a placebo and half the fluoride beads, which are inserted into brackets on the upper first molar on either side of the mouth.
The fluoride, they believe, causes some sort of precipitation which blocks up the tiny fluid-filled tubes 'tubules' - in the dentine which cause sensitivity when they become exposed.
Professor Toumba hopes the results will change the lives of tooth sensitivity sufferers: "Desensitising toothpastes have only a temporary effect. Our bead is replaced easily and painlessly every two years, giving constant freedom from tooth sensitivity."