Scientists may have developed a way to make teeth repair themselves – and make fillings a part of dental history.
Instead of filling teeth, dentists would only need to rebuild them, avoiding the need for uncomfortable drilling.
Professor Sally Marshall of the University of California in San Francisco thinks she may have found a way to stop decay in its tracks.
It involves re-mineralizing the teeth by trying to re-grow the materials from which they are made.
The main components include the enamel on the outside of the tooth, and the dentin, which is on the inside of the tooth.
When the dentin is broken through by bacteria, that is when decay begins and the need for the dentist's drill looms.
However, with the help of a calcium-containing ion solution, Marshall thinks she can re-grow the dentin in damaged teeth.
Dr. Andrea Ubhi, a dentist in Yorkshire, England, said she was cautiously optimistic about the development.
"It is possible that one day dentistry will be so preventative — decay will be caught in its early stages, and these re-mineralization techniques will repair the damage,” Ubhi said.
"However, patients would need to be seeing their dentists very regularly, perhaps every three months for these areas to be detected and treated, and in practice, not everyone will have that kind of access.”