Getting a filling is not always a quick solution for cavities. In fact, that solution can often result in additional problems for the patient with bacteria digging under these fillings and causing new cavities — called recurrent caries. Alone, recurrent caries can cost nearly $34 billion dollars annually to treat and affect an estimated 100 million patients each year.

Researchers, in the hopes of tackling this issue, have come up with a possible solution in the form of a filling material made up of tiny particles created by self-assembling antimicrobial drugs. The antimicrobial drugs were created to eliminate bacteria entirely, storing enough of the drug in the material to effectively fight bacteria for significant spans of time.

"Adding particles packed with antimicrobial drugs to a filling creates a line of defense against cavity-causing bacteria," said University of Toronto Professor Ben Hatton. "But traditionally there's only been enough drug to last a few weeks. Through this research we discovered a combination of drugs and silica glass that organize themselves on a molecule-by-molecule basis to maximize drug density, with enough supply to last years." Using antimicrobials that self-assemble ensures that the team can inject 50 times as much of the drugs into the particles.

"We know very well that bacteria specifically attack the margins between fillings and the remaining tooth to create cavities," said University of Toronto Professor Yoav Finer. "Giving these materials an antimicrobial supply that will last for years could greatly reduce this problem."

The team plans on testing and monitoring the new particles in dental fillings.

The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com