Scientists are developing the technology to enable teeth to regrow the crystals that make up dentin and enamel.
The technology will eventually phase out fillings and drillings completely.
The goal – estimated to be at least 10 years away – is to spot tooth decay early enough that they then get the teeth to grow healthy tooth-matter over the bad spots.
The scientists are beginning to find just the right solutions of chemicals to rebuild decayed teeth, rather than merely patching their holes.
‘What we’re hoping to have happen is to catch [decaying teeth] early and remineralise them,’ said Sally Marshall, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco.
By putting a layer of the solution on individual test teeth, Marshall has already been able to remineralise some parts of the teeth.
This ability to use some of the body’s own building materials for oral repair would be a boon – but scientists are discovering that dentin, in particular, is a remarkably complex structure.
Marshall’s work, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Structural Biology, focuses on regrowing the dentin in damaged teeth with the help of a calcium-containing solution of ions.