Fillings could soon be a thing of the past after scientists at King's College in London discovered that a drug used to treat Alzheimer's patients makes teeth grow back and repair cavities. 

In a study, Tideglusib has been found to stimulate the stem cells contained in the pulp of teeth and generate new dentine - the material under the enamel of a tooth. 

Teeth already do this on their own, but they only make a very thin layer of dentine, and not enough to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. Tideglusib however, switches off an enzyme that limits how much dentine teeth can create, meaning they can repair cavities completely by themselves. 

Below is a cavity that was treated with the drug after four and six months. 

King's College

For the study, scientists soaked a small biodegradable sponge with the drug and insert it into a cavity in the mouth of a mouse. That triggered the growth of dentine and repaired the damage within six weeks. The sponge decayed, leaving only the repaired tooth.

Professor Paul Sharpe, lead author of the study, believes that this method could replace fillings.

“The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine.

“In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics.”

Dentists currently use calcium and silicon-based products to fill cavities, but this means that the normal mineral level of the tooth is never completely restored.

Fillings are also prone to infection and often need replacing. Once multiple infections or replacements have taken place, there's so little of the tooth left that it needs to be extracted. 

 Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, says this treatment could solve that problem.

“This is an extremely interesting and novel approach which shows great promise and we will look forward to it being translated into clinical application that could undoubtedly be a progressive step in the treatment of dental disease.

“While fillings have remained highly effective in repairing large cavities, they are susceptible to wear-and-tear and can occasionally be in need of repair and replacement. This presents problems as the dentist could have to remove and fill a larger area each time and after numerous treatments the tooth may then have to be extracted."

“Creating a more natural way for the tooth to repair itself could not only eliminate these issues, but also be a far less invasive treatment option for patients. With dental phobia still being very common, using a natural way to stimulate the renewal of dentine could be an especially comforting proposal for these groups, for which undergoing treatment can often be a cause great anxiety.”