If you’re like most people, you hate getting cavities filled. We don’t blame you. It’s never fun news to go to the dentist and hear, “you have a cavity that needs a filling.” Getting a cavity can feel like you’re not taking good enough care of yourself and coming back to get it filled can be a huge inconvenience.
The pangs of cavities and fillings have existed throughout human history. In fact, there is 6,500-year-old evidence of early humans trying to fill cavities with beeswax. While cavity fillings might feel like torture, they are a necessary evil to preserve your dental health.
Leaving dental decay untreated typically leads to more decay and infection, and when the infection reaches the center of your tooth, you will need a root canal. Or worst-case scenario, you will have to have your tooth extracted. The good news for all of you out there that hate cavity fillings are that researchers are looking for an easy, low-cost and natural cure for cavities.
Dental fillings close off the cavity in your teeth to keep bacteria from entering and causing more decay. Fillings are usually made out of gold, porcelain, composite resin (a tooth-colored material), or amalgam.
Depending on your dental goals, each type of filling can give you different results. For instance, gold and amalgam tend to be much stronger and last much longer than porcelain and composite fillings. On the other hand, composite and porcelain fillings look better cosmetically.
The type of filling can also affect how much of the tooth needs to be drilled, and how brittle it will leave your tooth afterward. While traditional fillings are the best way to treat cavities, dentists and scientists are always on the lookout for a way to allow the tooth to heal itself. This led researchers to try and treat cavities with a widely used Alzheimer's drug.
Scientists at King’s College in London found a way to stimulate the growth of dentine (the layer of the tooth under the enamel layer), using an Alzheimer’s drug called Tideglusib. Scientists soaked a small collagen sponge with the drug, inserted it into the cavity, triggering stem cell growth and dentine repair. They sealed the sponge in the cavity, and when they came back 6 weeks later, the biodegradable sponge had melted away, and the tooth was repaired. The approach would be a simple and low-cost way to naturally protect the pulp of teeth and restore the dentine level.
The catch? Researchers have only performed this experiment with mice. Since mice have much smaller teeth than us, it is too soon in the trial to tell if this could replace traditional cavity fillings. First, they will need to try the approach with rats. If the drugs work with rats, they will begin a trial with humans. However, it could be on the dental scene sooner rather than later, since the drug is already approved for human use with Alzheimer’s disease.