Are Painful Cavity Fillings About to Become a Thing of the Past?

Photo: Stocksy/Santi Nunez
Generally speaking, people like having clean, white teeth. So our societal aversion to the dentist is somewhat perplexing—until you remember things like cavities and the rather uncomfortable process of fixing them. While fillings have enjoyed a makeover since years ago when you were permanently marked for your dental shortcomings with a mouth full of silver (they're now done in white, for the most part), getting a cavity filled remains a hardly joyful experience. A group of scientists, however, might have found a way to make fillings a thing of the past by discovering how to rebuild tooth enamel.

In a study published in the journal ACS Biomaterials, a group of researchers at the University of Washington (UW) tested six methods of remineralization (AKA enamel building) on artificially created lesions on enamel. The study unearthed one potential new treatment for cavities: using peptides—tiny proteins derived from amino acids—that allow people to regrow and strengthen their crown enamel (a much better alternative to having a doctor drill in your mouth, IMO). The peptide solution binds onto tooth surfaces and enlists the help of calcium and phosphate ions to rebuild a mineral layer.

“Remineralization guided by peptides is a healthy alternative to current dental health care." —Dr. Mehmet Sarikaya, lead study author

Once fully developed and tested, the peptide technology could be used in two ways: as a cost-effective alternative to existing cavity treatments and as a preventative measure in over-the-counter solutions—referred to as "biogenic dental products"—like toothpaste, gels, and composites that could become part of the daily dental-care routine, ultimately making cavities a nonstarter.

“Remineralization guided by peptides is a healthy alternative to current dental health care,” says lead author Mehmet Sarikaya, PhD, and professor of materials science and engineering at UW, in a press release.

If that's all true, here's hoping that the technology passes through development stages quickly. Until then, do your best to prevent cavities using flosscoconut-oil toothpaste, or these all-natural products that'll clean up your dental routine.

Suspect that apple cider vinegar might be ruining your teeth? Here's a whitening product that one energy healer swears by.

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