Laser therapy could replace dental drills and fillings forever

Few things in life are less pleasant than going to the dentist to get a filling. With all of that drilling, poking and scraping, it's no wonder people try to avoid going to the dentist at any cost. Lasers have been used by dentists for years both for tooth whitening, and in place of a drill for prepping a cavity. That's great, but when it comes to actually filling the hole, we're still stuck with the age old trowel and spackle approach.

What if your broken teeth could be made to heal by themselves, in much the same way as your skin and bones will grow back after trauma? That's the thinking behind a new type of laser therapy that uses infrared laser light to stimulate natural tooth growth.

Researchers at Harvard University's Wyss Institute have been working on methods to stimulate this type of natural tooth repair, and they think they have found a winner using an infrared laser technique called low-level light therapy. They drilled holes in the teeth of rats, and discovered that when they directed an infrared laser at the affected area, it stimulated stem cells to create new dentin, the basic building block material used at the core of teeth.

Lead researcher Dr. David Mooney says that this stimulative method holds great promise for reparative therapy beyond teeth, but for now they plan to focus on dental repair. The next step is to start human trials, and to establish a set of safety protocols by working with the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Mooney says that because lasers are already widely accepted in dentistry, he doesn't see any major hurdles in the path of the regenerative therapy.

I'll be happy if I just don't have to hear that whining drill anymore.

Science Magazine, via The Verge

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook