DATE: Oct 13, 2016
AUTHOR: Sharon Boyd, RDH, BS

A discovery made by the University of Nottingham and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University has uncovered the capabilities of regenerative dental fillings. If effective, these restorations would transform therapies performed on the millions of patients who suffer from dental caries and need endodontic treatment each year. Here's what you need to know about this new research.

Regrow Tooth Structure

Researcher Dr. Adam Celiz tells Newsweek that with regenerative dentistry, scientists have "designed synthetic biomaterials that can be used similarly to dental fillings but can be placed in direct contact with pulp tissue to stimulate the native stem cell population for repair and regeneration of pulp tissue and the surrounding dentin." Essentially, the therapy would allow for the patient's own tooth to repair itself from the inside-out without the need for a root canal.

The idea was the runner-up winner at the 2016 Royal Society of Chemistry's Emerging Technologies competition. The annual contest is designed to spark innovation in chemical sciences and bring awareness to the organizations behind them.

Hormone Triggers Stem Cell Development

Melanocyte-stimulating hormone, or MSH, has already been shown to be effective in the remodeling of bones. It may be able to do the same for the dentition. In theory, the stem cells would spark new dentin development. If this proves to be effective, the "drilling and filling" of restorative therapies could be minimized.

Rather than placing one of the currently available filling materials which Celiz describes as "toxic" in proximity to pulp tissue, Celiz recommends using synthetic biomaterials in direct contact with pulpal tissue, so that both the pulp and dentin are regenerated.

An alternative to traditional endodontics may be great news to dental patients. A root canal is intimidating to many patients. In fact, the American Association of Endodontists reports that 67 percent of Americans are concerned about the pain that may result from one. If regenerative methods replace fillings and root canals, patients may be more at ease about visiting the dentist.

Length of Treatment

How long would a process like this take? When a peptide gel or film is applied to a tooth, it would take about a month for the dental cells to regenerate. It is likely that the size and extent of the lesion would have a significant impact on total recovery time. Even then, only pulpal and dentin tissues are expected to regenerate. A biocompatible restoration would still be necessary for the replacement of enamel.

Dental patients should be advised that this regenerative therapy does not prevent dental caries. To help prevent dental caries, your patients should brush twice-daily with a fluoride toothpaste, and follow your advice on oral hygiene habits and dietary habits.


  • A new discovery may revolutionize endodontics.
  • Regenerative dentistry may minimize "drilling and filling" procedures.
  • A hormone that has proven effective in remodeling bones may be effective for teeth as well.

Why It's Important

An exciting discovery in regenerative dentistry may minimize the need for root canals and the traditional "drilling and filling" approach to treating dental caries.