Researchers have developed a 'smart' material to minimise new cavities caused by bacteria digging under the dental fillings.
These recurrent caries affect 100 million patients every year and cost an additional USD 34 billion to treat, researchers said.
In the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada have proposed a novel solution.
They have developed a filling material with tiny particles made by self-assembly of antimicrobial drugs which is designed to stop bacteria in its tracks.
These particles may solve one of the biggest problems with antibacterial filling materials: storing enough drug within the material to be effective for someone's entire life.
"Adding particles packed with antimicrobial drugs to a filling creates a line of defence against cavity-causing bacteria," said Professor Ben Hatton.
"Traditionally there has only been enough drug to last a few weeks. We discovered a combination of drugs and silica glass that organise themselves on a molecule-by-molecule basis to maximise drug density, with enough supply to last years," said Hatton.
The discovery of using antimicrobials which self-assemble means the team can pack 50 times as much of the bacteria-fighting drugs into the particles, researchers said.
"We know very well that bacteria specifically attack the margins between fillings and the remaining tooth to create cavities," said Professor Yoav Finer.
"Giving these materials an antimicrobial supply that will last for years could greatly reduce this problem," said Finer.
The research team plans on testing these new drug-storing particles in dental fillings, monitoring their performance when attacked by bacteria and saliva in the complex environment in the mouth.
With some fine-tuning, the new 'smart' material could create a stronger filling and fewer trips to the dentist, researchers said.