DUNEDIN, New Zealand: In New Zealand, one of most common methods for treating dental caries in primary teeth is the Hall technique. The non-invasive method involves placing metal crowns over teeth that are only moderately decayed, and is relatively quick and inexpensive to perform. Numerous issues have been reported with the type of crown used in Kiwi dental practices, however, leading a local dental researcher to begin developing her own restorative technology.
Dr Joanne Choi, a lecturer at the University of Otago’s Faculty of Dentistry and a dental technology and materials researcher, told Dental Tribune International (DTI) that her research into the topic “began almost by chance” in 2017, when her colleague Dr Lyndie Foster Page conducted a presentation on the implementation of the Hall technique in New Zealand.
“She mentioned how parents had said that the metal Hall crowns don’t look nice,” Choi said. “If the kids have one or two metal crowns, it’s not such a problem, but if they have three or four, it becomes noticeable. This got me interested in starting a project to develop tooth-coloured crowns for New Zealand children.”
These metal crowns may draw unwanted attention to a child’s caries and add to any pre-existing dental anxiety, Choi said to DTI. Furthermore, she said that, although the crowns come in a number of different sizes, Maori and Pacific Islander children often have teeth that are larger than any of the available crowns.
In a press release from the University of Otago, Choi mentioned that the crowns she and her team are currently developing would be both more aesthetically pleasing and more cost-effective than the metal crowns currently used in local public dental health services.
COVID-19 slows project, but only briefly
Choi told DTI that the COVID-19 pandemic had briefly delayed aspects of the project and had made securing funding more difficult. However, New Zealand’s relatively good ability to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has allowed her team to get back on schedule since, and a recent grant from the Cure Kids foundation—a charity that invests in medical research aimed at improving the lives of children—has ensured that they have sufficient funding.
According to Choi, a prototype of the tooth-coloured crown should be available and ready for clinical testing by the end of next year.