According to a new study in the journal ACS Nano, the dreaded sound of the dentist's drill could soon be a thing of the past. A new peptide, embedded in a soft gel or thin, flexible film could be placed next to a cavity. It would encourage cells inside the teeth to regenerate in about a month. This technology is the first of its kind and would eliminate the need for root canals or drilling.
Nadia Benkirane-Jessel, a scientist at the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale and co-author of a recent paper on the subject says it isn't like a toothpaste. It doesn't prevent cavities but instead helps to control them once they develop.
The gel or thin film contains a peptide known as MSH, melanocyte-stimulating hormone. Experiments reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that MSH encourages bone regeneration. Since bone and teeth are relatively similar, French scientists conducted a test of the MSH substance. They applied a film or gel containing MSH to cavity-filled mice teeth. After about a month, the cavities had disappeared.
MSH doesn't prevent cavities, it just treats them so proper oral hygiene such as brushing and flossing is still necessary. Numerous clinical trials over several years will still need to be performed before the MSH gels are available for human treatments.
The causes of cavities, which are bacteria and pus-filled holes on or in teeth, are varied. It could be anything from improper oral hygiene to eating acidic or sugary foods. When bacteria get the chance to start eating away at the teeth, they damage the protective enamel and other minerals inside the tooth.