The end of dental fillings?
Scientists say they have invented a special gel that will allow dentists to repair decaying teeth without the need for fillings, reports TheGuardian.com. The enamel that coats our teeth is the hardest tissue in the human body, but this complex material can’t repair itself when damaged. Dentists use many different materials to fill cavities—including resin, metal alloys, amalgam, and ceramics—but none sticks perfectly to enamel and so they often come loose. To crack this problem, researchers in China used a gel containing calcium and phosphate—enamel’s building blocks—to encourage teeth to self-repair. In trials, the gel was applied to human teeth that were then placed in a fluid that mimics conditions inside the mouth. Within 48 hours, the gel had created a 2.7-micrometer layer of a substance matching the structure, strength, and wear-resistance of natural enamel. While that’s only a tiny fraction of the depth needed to tackle cavities, the process could be repeated to build up the repair layer. “After intensive discussion with dentists,” says co-author Zhaoming Liu, from Zhejiang University, “we believe this new method can be widely used in future.” ■