By Susan Braden
A French research group is working to develop a gel that can regenerate tooth tissue, possibly eliminating the need for traditional fillings, to help patients avoid the dentist drill for the most cheap dental work possible. If the study continues to develop successfully, it might only take a quick application of this substance on the tooth’s surface to heal itself from within.
Traditional filling methods involve the ominous drill. Once a tooth begins to decay, the dentist has to drill into the tooth, remove the decayed matter and fill the empty space with restorative material. Metal amalgam and porcelain dental composites are the most common fillers. These have been known to occasionally fall out, and scientists are discovering that certain metal fillings release toxic mercury into the body. Regardless of how sturdy or safe the fillings are, the process itself still requires a long, potentially painful visit to the dentist office. Part of the tooth still must be removed and the empty space filled with a foreign substance. The initial visit is not cheap, and it is certainly not cheap to replace fillings that have fallen out. The filling procedure still has a very high success rate, but these French scientists are looking for an even better approach.
Instead of removing diseased pulp and replacing it with something cheap, the gel aims to replace it with healthy tissue. This would eliminate the need to drill out the decayed area. Scientists have discovered a biomaterial shown to regenerate bone, and they are using it as a gel in this study. When a dentist simply inserts the substance into a tooth, healthy tissue may be able to grow to replace the rotting tissue. Researchers have been testing this approach on mice, and within a month of application, their cavities have disappeared.
The researchers emphasize that this product is not like toothpaste. People still need to brush and floss to maintain healthy teeth. The substance would simply treat and control cavities that already exist. Additionally, researchers stress that the bone regeneration gel would only work for a small number of cases, and that people should not assume that they will not need a traditional filling. Perhaps one day this gel will be a cheap dental option for everyone, and drills will no longer be necessary.