Newly Developed Smart Material Could Mean Less Tooth Decay

Most people who have a cavity and visit the dentist to have it filled leave feeling like everything is taken care of and there’s nothing else to worry about. Unfortunately, it’s common for bacteria to build up under fillings and cause a new cavity, also called recurrent caries.

A recent study published in Scientific Reports by the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering reports that a team of researchers has developed a new material designed to help prevent cavities under fillings.

New Filling Material Solves Common Problem 

The filling material contains tiny particles of antimicrobial drugs that are designed to stop bacteria from accumulating around or under the tooth or filling area. In the past, one of the biggest struggles with this method has been the ability to distribute these antimicrobial drugs to the mouth for the entire life of the patient, or the life of the filling. Most materials created thus far have only been successful preventing bacteria buildup for a few weeks after the filling is placed. This new material can hold 50 times more of these bacteria-fighting antimicrobials, meaning it can protect against bacteria for years instead of weeks.

Recurrent Caries Affect 100 Million Patients a Year

Recurrent caries is tooth decay that occurs when bacteria find a home under fillings or other dental restorations and create a new cavity where one was already fixed, said Dr. John Pappas of Arcadia Dental Arts in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Sometimes recurrent caries can be caused by poor oral hygiene, while other times micro-leakage from old restorations can seep into areas where toothbrushes just can’t reach,” he said.

Every year 100 million patients are affected by recurrent caries, and it costs $34 billion in the United States to treat. Taking preventative measures could save time, money and the dreaded visit to the dentist for more work on teeth that have already experienced a cavity.

According to Pappas, certain things put some patients at higher risk for experiencing recurrent caries.

“Dry mouth can greatly increase one’s chances of suffering from recurrent caries,” he said. “The mouth relies on a healthy production of saliva to keep bacteria under control, and without it, decay sets in much faster.”

Dry mouth can be caused by things like dehydration, stress, lifestyle habits and even medications. In fact, some of the most commonly prescribed medications cause dry mouth as a side effect, so be sure to talk to your doctor or dentist if one of your medications may be causing you to experience symptoms of dry mouth.

Treating Recurrent Caries 

As with any dental complication, the sooner it is diagnosed and treatment begins, the less invasive and aggressive the treatment will be. If caught very early on, sometimes the decay can be removed without removing the filling. In most cases, however, the crown or other restoration must be removed in order to address the cavity, Pappas said.

“It’s extremely important to make twice-a-year dental visits a priority,” he said. “In every situation, the sooner we can identify a problem, the sooner we can work through a solution that is much less severe, expensive and painful than if the complication continues for months without treatment.”

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