Scientists must really dread the dentist -- they're always coming up with new solutions to help people avoid that cursed drill. The latest: a hormone gel that regenerates tooth cells in as little as a month.
The gel, the first of its kind, could eliminate the need to fill cavities or drill into the root canal of an infected tooth, Discovery News reports. It is reported in the journal ACS Nano.
A dentist would place a dab of the gel near a cavity, where it would encourage cells to grow, healing the tooth from within. It contains a peptide called MSH, melanocyte-stimulating hormone, which has been shown to encourage bone regeneration.
A team of French scientists tested the gel on mice that had cavities. After about a month, the cavities had disappeared, according to Nadia Benkirane-Jessel, a scientist at the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale and a co-author of the paper. Not only did new tooth cells grow, but they were also stronger, the paper says.
Along with preventing drill-related discomfort, tooth regeneration could have physiological benefits. Drilling into teeth can destroy nerve cells and blood vessels, so replacing dead or diseased cells with new tissue would be a dramatic improvement.
More work needs to be done to prove the gel technique works in humans, however. Even then, it will probably only work in a few cases, Benkirane-Jessel says. Most cavities will still have to be filled.