New Material Enhances Fillings, Rebuilds Teeth
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 27, 2001 -- Coming soon to a dentist's office near you:
'smart' fillings that release cavity-fighting components such as calcium and
"[Smart fillings] look very much like current composites
and match the appearance of [tooth] enamel quite well," says Joseph
Antonucci, PhD, a research chemist at the National Institute of Standards and
Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. "They would act to prevent formation of
secondary or recurrent cavities that can occur on or around conventional
Antonucci presented findings on the new fillings Sunday at the
annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, in Chicago. At that meeting,
he and colleague Drago Skrtic, PhD, a project leader at the American Dental
Association Health Foundation's Paffenbarger Research Center in Gaithersburg,
reported that a substance used for the fillings -- called amorphous calcium
phosphate, or ACP -- grew new mineral in cow teeth.
Antonucci says he expects the filler to be widely available for
dentists in a year or two.
Unlike the ACP fillings, ordinary composite fillings don't
promote remineralization, he says.
"[The new material] can also be used to counteract the
demineralization that occurs when kids have braces attached to teeth,"
Antonucci says. As a powder, "ACP is also used as a desensitizer for teeth
that are sensitive to cold and heat," he says.
The powdered substance is also found in some toothpastes and
Trident Advantage and Trident for Kids chewing gums.
"The benefit from these materials would be a reduction in
future cavities," says Frederick Eichmiller, DDS, director of the American
Dental Association Health Foundation's Paffenbarger Research Center. "These
materials have the potential to prevent new cavities from forming and to repair
early damage that may have already occurred."
It may also be useful in patients that are especially
susceptible to cavities, such as people who have undergone radiation therapy or
chemotherapy, he says.
They are extremely safe, Eichmiller says, the composition is
very similar to existing composites and the added active ingredients are
minerals normally found in teeth, bones, and saliva.
However, studies are needed to see if they are strong enough to
use them in permanent stress-bearing fillings such as the back teeth, he