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New Cavity Treatment Could Replace Drilling and Filling


University of Alabama researchers are in the process of testing a new cavity treatment option that could mark the end of the drill-and-fill technique. This new method, called resin infiltration, is drill free. Currently, it can only be used on smooth tooth surfaces and for small cavities. Researchers say that may change, however. Augusto Robles, D.D.S., assistant professor and director of Operative Dentistry Curriculum says, In my 24 years of practicing, this changes everything we've done so far.

Researchers at the University of Alabama (UAB) at Birmingham School of Dentistry are perfecting a new technique that could replace the traditional “drill-and-fill” method of dealing with dental caries. The new treatment, called resin infiltration, is being tested in a clinical trial and is already showing great promise.

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Resin infiltration is already FDA-approved and is commercially available, but it is mainly being used in clinical trials in the United States. Currently, more than 150 patients are enrolled in the ongoing clinical trial at UAB.

The resin infiltration product is applied in the small space between a patient’s teeth as a way to treat small dental caries. First, dentists clean the cavity by pushing a gel between the two tooth surfaces. The gel prepares each surface to accept the resin product, which is applied through the use of a plastic, perforated sheet that is pushed between the affected teeth. The tooth is then filled by pushing liquid resin through the perforated sheet, and a dental curing light is used to cure the resin.

As Nathaniel Lawson, D.M.D., School of Dentistry Division Director of Biomaterials says, “Since this is a no-shot and no-drill treatment, it is popular with patients. And since no tooth is removed, it is a very conservative procedure.”

Normally, the only way for dentists to treat caries is to inject a numbing agent into the patient’s mouth and then drill at the tooth in order to access the cavity. However, this can be painful and stressful for the patient, and it can damage the surrounding tooth structure.

This new, drill-free treatment option can be completed without anesthesia. Patients must meet certain requirements, however, for the treatment to work. Since the treatment only works in between teeth on smooth surfaces — and only on small caries – it is not an option for patients with cavities that are larger or are located on the top of teeth.

“The resin has to be liquid to be able to be absorbed into the caries in between teeth. So at this point, the application is pretty specific,” says Augusto Robles, D.D.S., assistant professor and director of Operative Dentistry Curriculum.

Even though the new treatment approach is only being used in a clinical trial, it could change the future of dentistry by replacing the traditional method of dealing with dental caries. As Robles says, “I never thought this would be possible for dentistry. In my 24 years of practicing, this changes everything we’ve done so far. It’s marvelous.”

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