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The prototype ultrasound device can be mounted on braces or a plastic removable crown. ((CBC))

A tiny ultrasound device could help people regrow teeth, researchers at the University of Alberta say.

The prototype device offers a way to reform human dental tissue for the first time, the team said Wednesday.

Everyone from hockey players to children who knock out a tooth could benefit.

The treatment, called low-intensity pulsed ultrasound, massages the gums to stimulatejaws, encourage growth in the roots of teeth and aid healing in dental tissue.

"If the root is broken, it can now be fixed," said Dr. Tarak El-Bialy of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. "And because we can regrow the teeth root, a patient could have his own tooth rather than foreign objects in his mouth."

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Dr. Tarak El-Bialy of the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. ((CBC))

El-Bialy discovered ultrasound could be used to form new dental tissue from his research on rabbit incisors, which was published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.

Hethen tested the technique on people who needed to get their teeth pulled.

Participants held the bulky ultrasound devicefor 20 minutes a day forfour weeks against a tooth that had a problem, such as erosion aftera root canal.

WhenEl-Bialy looked at the extracted teeth under the microscope, he found new tissue was added to the roots of treated teeth, but not to untreated ones. The therapy regenerates the inner part of the tooth, but not the enamel.

He thenteamed up with engineers Jie Chen and Ying Tsui to make the ultrasound device smaller so it could fit comfortably inside a patient's mouth.

The prototypecanbe mounted onbraces or a plastic removable crown.

The team has filed for a patent on their prototype in the U.S. Theyexpect to have a version that is ready for patientswithin two years.