A new invention by Japanese scientists might be a
breakthrough in dentistry: a revolutionary toothpaste made of
synthetic enamel that can be used to fill in cavities
permanently without drilling. Researchers reporting on the
development in Nature say the toothpaste also prevents
additional cavities from forming.
The main advantage of the innovative development is not in
sparing patients the trauma of drilling but in avoiding the
damage done to the tooth as a result of the drilling. In
order to fill a small cavity, generally the dentist must
drill away a substantial amount of unaffected tooth enamel.
Thus a patient who arrives at the dentist's office with a
small cavity leaves with a large filling that really weakens
the entire tooth.
Research teams around the world have been searching for ways
to treat tooth decay without having to drill. Now a team of
scientists from the Dental Institute of Tokyo has developed a
special toothpaste made of hydroxyapatite, which has the same
chemical composition as the mineral occurring naturally in
tooth enamel. The researchers tested the paste on the front
teeth of dentures that showed signs of caries (tooth decay).
In the test, the synthetic enamel mixed in with the natural
enamel, filled the cavities effectively and even helped
prevent the development of further tooth decay.
According to Nature, Prof. Kazo Yamjishi, who headed
the research team, said the synthetic substance they
developed can be used to restore enamel without the need to
prepare the area of the filling (i.e. by enlarging the
cavity) and even helps prevent the spread of tooth decay by
strengthening the tooth's natural enamel. However the
toothpaste must not come into contact with the gums. If it
does it could cause infection.
The researchers hope their invention will lead to the
development of a toothpaste available to consumers that would
fill small cavities liable to grow, eventually requiring root