Scientists develop tooth gel that repairs enamel and could mean the end of fillings


This isn’t our idea of a fun afternoon (Getty Images)

Going to the dentist isn’t really on top of everyone’s fun-things-to-do list and even more so when it involves getting a filling.

But a team of Chinese scientists have come up with a new kind of tooth gel that repairs enamel – which might mark the beginning of the end for tooth fillings.

The gel contains calcium and phosphate, the building blocks of enamel which is the protective layer on the outside of the tooth that gets worn down over time. The team, from Zhejiang University in China, applied the gel to human teeth that had been removed from patients and damaged with acid.

They then left the teeth in fluid designed to mimic the environment of your mouth for 48 hours and watched as the gel stimulated the growth of new enamel. Effectively, they made the tooth self-heal.

To be fair, the new enamel was only 3 micrometers thick – meaning it’s about 400 times thinner than undamaged tooth enamel – but the team say that repeated coats of the gel may be able to build that up.

Fillings, as well as being expensive and a pain, are usually made of things like metal, resin or porcelain. They don’t bind perfectly to teeth and can sometimes become loose over time. Having this gel available will stop the development of cavities and, hopefully, the need for fillings entirely.

The team in China are now moving on to testing their gel on mice and plan to eventually test it on people. They need to make sure the chemicals are safe and test how the new enamel copes with things like eating and drinking.

Their findings have been published in the scientific journal Science Advances.





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