Researchers working on fillings that regenerate tooth structure
In both medicine and dentistry there is a focus on being preventative and less invasive with treatments. Sealants, fluoride treatments, and regular cleanings are a great way to focus on preventative dental treatment. But once a cavity has formed, our only course of treatment involves drilling away tooth structure to remove the tooth decay. Currently, researchers are working on developing fillings that “allow teeth to heal themselves.” This is a very exciting development because it could limit the number of invasive procedures a dentist may need to perform.
The treatment that researchers have been working on would stimulate stem cells to encourage the growth of dentin. Dentin is the bony material that makes up the majority of the tooth and lies just under the hard, outer shell of enamel. These fillings would allow you to effectively re-grow tooth structure that was damaged by decay. Hopefully this could become an alternative to traditional dental fillings.
So why would it be important to reduce the number of fillings needed or the size of the fillings performed? Typically, a smaller filling leads to a better prognosis. A smaller filling stays further from the pulp (where the nerve is found) and decreases the potential for sensitivity. And every time you work on a tooth, you risk possible sensitivity and the need for a root canal in the future. Each root canal contains another set of risks that include root fracture and tooth loss. Bottom line: if you can avoid invasive procedures on the teeth it can be beneficial to you in the long run.
Even though we still know very little about this development, it is safe to say it will not eliminate the need for all invasive dental procedures. But every little bit helps and it can hopefully prevent a ripple affect on your dental health that could affect you for years.