Fillings which help teeth to self-repair from ongoing decay have been invented by scientists.
Hailed as a revolution in dental care, the compound – known as bioactive glass – not only blocks cavities but repairs bacterial damage.
It releases minerals such as calcium and phosphate, which the tooth uses to replace what was lost during the decay and repair itself.
The technology, developed by experts at Queen Mary University of London, is set to do away with the need for mercury fillings, experts hope.
Hailed as a revolution in dental care, the compound – known as bioactive glass – not only blocks cavities but repairs bacterial damage
Unlike existing fillings, the new compound has almost no risk of falling out.
Professor Robert Hill, who helped to develop the technology at Queen Mary University of London, previously said: ‘This will change dental practice, reducing the size of cavities, repairing decay and reducing the number of secondary cavities.
‘These fillings should last a lifetime.’
The filling is made from bioactive glass composites that release fluoride as well as calcium and phosphate needed to form tooth mineral.
It fills the gaps with minerals, preventing bacteria from entering tiny holes between the filling and the tooth that can lead to more cavities.
Developed by experts at Queen Mary University of London, it releases minerals such as calcium and phosphate, which the tooth uses to replace what was lost during the decay
The new technology eliminates the need to use amalgam – what is commonly used in fillings – by offering aesthetic white fillings which help heal the tooth.
Fillings made from amalgam – a mixture of metals, including mercury – are banned in some countries because of their toxicity.
Scientists are under huge pressure to remove mercury-based fillings by 2020 as part of international agreements.
REVOLUTIONARY ‘STEM CELL FILLINGS’
Earlier this year, scientists discovered a radical stem cell treatment which could be used to treat root canal.
Synthetic biomaterials in a filling are placed in direct contact with pulp tissue. This stimulates repair and regeneration.
The approach could significantly impact millions of patients each year with dental fillings that help heal teeth when they are injured from dental disease or dental surgery, the researchers, from Harvard University and the University of Nottingham, said.
Professor Hill added: ‘The new bioactive glass also fills in the gaps with tooth mineral thus preventing the oral bacteria which cause tooth decay from establishing themselves.
‘Research suggests this will potentially prolong the life of fillings and slow secondary tooth decay because the depth of bacterial penetration with bioactive glass fillings was significantly smaller than for inert fillings.’
The same researchers also developed a toothpaste which repairs teeth while people sleep earlier this year.
It included BioMinF, which binds to the teeth, filling any holes and slowly releasing a mix of calcium, phosphate and fluoride.
Richard Whatley, CEO of BioMin Technologies, said: ‘We plan to translate the remineralising technology developed with the BioMinF toothpaste into restorative dental products.
‘This is a really exciting development which is attracting interest from a number of commercial companies.’
Over 80 percent of the population in the UK has at least one filling, with seven being the average while eight million cavities are filled with amalgam each year.