The Future Of Cavities: Less Filling, More Healing

Nobody likes having a cavity filled at the dentist. For some, it’s getting the shot of Novocain that makes the experience unpleasant. For many, it’s the drilling. But deep down, the real issue is simply knowing that part of your tooth has been removed and permanently replaced with something synthetic. For those studying to become Dental Assistants under the Unitek College Dental Assisting program, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be dealing with reluctant dental patients at some point or another. But good news for you and them; hope is on the horizon, and synthetic dental fillings could one day become a thing of the past.

The solution, believe it or not, could lie in a treatment for Alzheimer’s, according to a recent trial at King’s College in London. Scientists discovered that decayed teeth, when treated with a particular Alzheimer’s drug, activated their stem cells within the soft pulp of the tooth’s center, which led to the teeth literally repairing themselves from within.

“The tooth is not just a lump of mineral, it’s got its own physiology. You’re replacing a living tissue with an inert cement,” explains Professor Paul Sharpe, who led the study. “Fillings work fine, but if the tooth can repair itself, surely [that’s] the best way. You’re restoring all the vitality of the tooth.”

Unfortunately, the breakthrough isn’t quite a full escape from the discomfort of having a cavity filled. The new technology isn’t like the caramels in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—simply chew some and your cavities are instantly filled. Some drilling will still be required to prepare the site, and that means the shot of Novocain as well. But by allowing the tooth to repair itself instead of adding a filling (which can crack, break, or fall out), it potentially makes those uncomfortable trips to the dental chair a lot less frequent.

“Clinically speaking,” adds DMD Winnie Wong, “the best material is always natural tooth structure, so I’m sure this method will be encouraged by most dentists.”

And here’s a little more good news. Because the Alzheimer’s drug has already been tested in clinical trials, a “real opportunity [exists] to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics,” says Sharpe.

If you’d like to read more about how the drug works on cavities, you can check out this video here.

Of course, there are some patients for whom no amount of new technology will be enough to ease the anxiety of the dentist’s office, so regardless of the breakthroughs and discoveries, you’ll want to constantly be looking for ways to help make those visits as stress-free as possible. You can find a few great suggestions here.

Or who knows? Maybe the next breakthrough will eliminate the shots and the drilling. We can always hope!

If you’d like more information on the Unitek College Dental Assisting program, contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer any and all questions.