New Material Enhances Fillings, Rebuilds Teeth
Aug. 27, 2001 -- Coming soon to a dentist's office near you: 'smart' fillings that release cavity-fighting components such as calcium and phosphate.
"[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 fillings."
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 says.