Tech

A New Drug Breakthrough Could Fill Your Cavities With No Drilling

Published On 01/25/2017 Published On 01/25/2017

There are not enough free toothbrushes in the world to make going to the dentist not suck. Whether it's the awkward sensation of having a stranger poke around your mouth with a sharp object, or the fact that they may discover some problem in there that needs to be FIXED WITH A GODDAMN DRILL, it's reasonable to feel a sense of dread wash over you every time you hop into the exam chair.

Fortunately, scientists have discovered a revolutionary new dental treatment that would enable your teeth to painlessly heal themselves. Hope is alive and well!

In a new paper published in Scientific Reports, researchers at King's College London claim that a drug known for treating Alzheimer's disease can also be used to stimulate the renewal of stem cells inside our teeth, which means that when properly administered, it could compel your cavity-riddled teeth to essentially fill and fix themselves. In short, that means a lot of painful dental procedures may soon be a thing of the past. 

Kauzio/Wikimedia Commons

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how this works, it might be helpful to touch on some relevant dentistry basics for those of us without a DMD. It turns out our teeth are actually capable of regenerating a small amount of dentine -- the super-hard tissue that makes up most of your tooth -- after they get damaged or start to decay, but not enough to properly protect themselves against further damage. This is why dentists drill down into an ailing tooth, past freshly formed dentine, to fill a cavity with cement. It's a reliable treatment, but it's super-uncomfortable. Not to mention, aging fillings often need to be replaced, and can leave you prone to infection, facing down a dreaded root canal. 

Alternately, this non-invasive treatment would involve a dentist simply soaking a biodegradable sponge with the Alzheimer drug, inserting it into your cavity, and waiting six weeks for stem cells to do their thing, e.g., heal the tooth from the inside out.

Currently, the treatment's only been tested successfully on the teeth of mice. However, proponents expect human trials to begin soon since the active drug in it has already been proven safe for Alzheimer's patients. And frankly, besides the many reasons why it seems like it would become the medically preferred modern method of fixing cavities, what dentist wouldn't want to rally around some much-needed good PR? 

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him to horror-free dental work @jwmcgauley.

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