A novel therapy holds real promise in changing the way dentists treat your cavities—they'd get the cavities to fill themselves. As the Guardian reports, researchers at King's College London found that they could stimulate stem cells within the teeth to regenerate through a relatively simple approach: They insert a tiny drug-soaked sponge in the cavity.
"The sponge is biodegradable, that's the key thing," researcher Paul Sharpe tells the BBC. "The space occupied by the sponge becomes full of minerals as the dentine regenerates so you don't have anything in there to fail in the future." In their study, the drug used was tideglusib, which has been used in clinical trials as a treatment for dementia and Alzheimer's.
Having a tooth refill itself naturally is far preferable to the usual treatment of filling the cavity with some kind of amalgam that raises the risk of related problems down the road.
"This simple, rapid natural tooth repair process could thus potentially provide a new approach to clinical tooth restoration," write the researchers in Scientific Reports. Also promising is that because the drug already has been proven safe for clinical trials, the turnaround to real-world applications could happen relatively quickly.
One caveat: The study was on mice, and researchers can't say for sure yet whether they'd get the same results in larger, human cavities. (The main reason people avoid the dentist isn't fear.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Filling a Cavity May Never Be the Same