Researchers believe they may be close to perfecting a method of encouraging teeth to repair themselves, making the filling a thing of the past.
The team at King’s College London found a drug already tested in patients can stimulate regrowth in decayed teeth, repairing cavities naturally, without the need for a filling.
“We’ve developed a really simple system. It involves putting a drug on a little sponge that goes inside the tooth, in the hole that the dentist has made. It stimulates this natural process, which is starting to occur anyway following the damage, but it over-activates the process so you actually get the big hole repaired and the repair is a production of the natural material, the dentine,” said Professor Paul Sharpe of the Centre for Regenerative Dentistry.
Using commercially available biodegradable collagen sponges to deliver the treatment, the team applied low doses of glycogen synthase kinase inhibitors to the tooth.
They found that the sponge degraded over time and that new dentine replaced it, leading to complete, natural repair.
The research does not mean the end of the dreaded drill just yet as dentists still need to remove any infected or decaying dentine and create a hole for the sponge to be inserted into.
As yet, no way of regrowing the thin layer of enamel that protects the dentine.