Dental work without the ouch (really!)

U. LEEDS (UK) — A peptide solution that is painted on teeth takes the pain out of fighting dental decay by helping damaged teeth regenerate themselves.

Tooth decay begins when acid produced by bacteria in plaque dissolves the mineral in the teeth, causing microscopic holes or “pores” to form. As the decay process progresses the micro-pores increase in size and number to the point that eventually the damaged tooth may have to be drilled and filled, or even removed.

“This may sound too good to be true, but we are essentially helping acid-damaged teeth to regenerate themselves. It is a totally natural non-surgical repair process and is entirely pain-free too,” says Jennifer Kirkham, a professor at the University of Leeds Dental Institute.

Researchers led by Amalia Aggeli designed the fluid that contains a P 11-4, a peptide that will assemble together into fibers under certain conditions. In practice, this means that when applied to the tooth, the fluid seeps into the micro-pores caused by acid attack and spontaneously forms a gel. The gel in turn provides a scaffold or framework that attracts calcium and regenerates the tooth’s mineral from within, providing a natural and pain-free repair.

When tested on a small group of adults with initial signs of tooth decay, the gel showed it can reverse damage and regenerate tooth tissue.

“The results of our tests so far are extremely promising,” says Paul Brunton, who is overseeing patient testing. “If these results can be repeated on a larger patient group, then I have no doubt whatsoever that in two to three years time this technique will be available for dentists to use in their daily practice.

“The main reason that people don’t go to the dentist regularly is fear. If we can offer a treatment that is completely non-invasive, that doesn’t involve a mechanical drill, then we can change that perceived link between dental treatment and pain.

“This really is more than filling without drilling, this is a novel approach that enables the patients to keep their natural teeth.”

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