Science has come a long way in dentistry. We are able to treat conditions and preserve teeth much longer than we used to be able to. However, we still have limitations in the current dental field. Tooth decay is one of the most expensive and prevalent bacterial diseases that humans face. While we have developed some strategies for curbing infection such as drilling out decay and replacing it with filling material, decay frequently comes back. We’re encouraged by the results of a new study that will improve upon our current decay treatment efforts. Although someday we hope to be able to regrow teeth, in the meantime this new research offers better outcomes for preventing new decay in previously treated teeth.
The Downhill Cycle of Recurrent Decay
The very best protection for guarding your oral and overall health is cavity prevention. So far, science has not been able to produce a replacement that is as good as your natural teeth at protecting your oral & general health. Once decay breaches a tooth’s enamel, it’s very difficult to stay ahead of the slow but inevitable decline. Cavities lead to recurrent cavities. Cavities eventually become large enough to affect the root, requiring a root canal. Eventually the tooth may die or need extraction as a result of the infection.
The Current Solution for Treating Decay
Scientists have been working to stop this cycle of decay and destruction. Traditional fillings help to reduce the risk of infection and protect the dentin and root of the tooth from harmful bacteria. However, sometimes bacteria can become trapped between the filling and the tooth. Additionally, fillings can crack or warp with temperatures and pressure, making new entry points for bacteria.
The historical choice for filling material was an amalgam of metal alloys. These amalgams had the benefit of being an antimicrobial surface that helped reduce the risk of recurrent decay. However, these fillings are dark, shiny, and very noticeable. Beyond that, the safety of various metals used in them began to raise concerns about their effect on the whole body. The dental field transitioned to the use of more natural-looking resin composites. These did not carry the risk of metal toxicity, and blend in for a much more aesthetically pleasing result. The downside of these composite fillings is their surface is no longer antimicrobial, increasing the risk of recurrent decay.
A New Solution
A new study from Tel Aviv university explores the use of tiny antibacterial “building blocks” mixed into a filling composite. Their goal was for the filling itself to fight bad bacteria, instead of just passively blocking the entry. These building blocks are a good choice because they are low-cost, biologically compatible with the resin, aesthetically well disguised, and offer structural strength to the filling material.
So far, the results are very positive! TAU doctoral student Lee Schnaider who worked on the project explains, “We’ve developed an enhanced material that is not only aesthetically pleasing and mechanically rigid but is also intrinsically antibacterial due to the incorporation of antibacterial nano-assemblies. Resin composite fillings that display bacterial inhibitory activity have the potential to substantially hinder the development of this widespread oral disease.” This research will mark a significant step forward in treating recurrent decay. Additionally, it could have further applications for wound dressings, tissue scaffolds, and other medical materials.
At West One Dental we always look forward to advances that will help achieve better results for our patients. We’d love to be your partner in maintaining your oral health!