A new gel being developed by French scientists may mean the end of dental fillings and, even more importantly, the dreaded dental drill. The gel, which stimulates the growth of tooth tissue, may prove a painless cure for dental decay.
According to the Daily Mail:
“The French team mixed MSH with a chemical called poly-L-glutamic acid. This is a substance often used to transport drugs inside the body because it can survive the harsh environments, such as the stomach, that might destroy medicines before they get a chance to work.
“The mixture was then turned into a gel and rubbed on to cells, called dental pulp fibroblasts, taken from extracted human teeth. These cells are the kind that help new tooth tissue to grow.
“But until now there has been no way of ‘switching’ them back on once they have been destroyed by dental decay. The researchers found the gel triggered the growth of new cells and also helped with adhesion – the process by which new dental cells ‘lock’ together.
“This is important because it produces strong tooth pulp and enamel which could make the decayed tooth as good as new. “
MSH (melanocyte-stimulating hormone) is produced by the pituitary gland, and is known to help facilitate the growth of tooth and bone tissue.
Dental decay is caused by bacteria that live in the mouth and interact with sugar to create an acid that slowly eats away at tooth enamel. Eventually, most adults need to have dental work to repair cavities. Using fillings can be an imperfect solution, as they tend to get loose and fall out.
If and when the gel treatment becomes widely available, which some estimate to be in about three years, a new era of dental medicine will have begun. While the gel may not help people with severe tooth decay, the treatment promises to replace the drill-and-fill operation that has been standard procedure for treating cavities for decades. The process is time-consuming and painful, causing many people to avoid going to the dentist until their dental problems become extremely severe.
A gel treatment will be not only less painful and time-consuming than the drill-and-fill procedure, but potentially less expensive. That, in turn, would help to lower the cost of health care, not through government manipulation, but by technology. A quick and easy way to repair decayed teeth will have incalculable effects on the quality of life for many tens of millions of people.
Gel that can help decayed teeth grow back could end fillings, Pat Hagan, Daily Mail, July 27th, 2010