Resin Restorations Provide Alternatives to Drilling and Filling

Dentistry Today


When patients present with a cavity in between their teeth, dentists typically have to numb the area and drill away the tooth structure to get to it. Resin infiltration, under development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), offers a less painful treatment option via a plastic perforated sheet placed in between the affected teeth. 

“When we develop cavities between teeth, sometimes we have to go through the tooth, and we end up damaging healthy tooth structure,” said Augusto Robles, DDS, assistant professor and director of the operative dentistry curriculum. “This new system allows us to skip the drilling and helps us preserve that structure.”

The cavity is first cleaned by pushing a gel that prepares the surface to accept the resin infiltrant through the perforated sheet. The tooth then is filled by pushing a liquid resin through the perforated sheet. A dental curing light is applied to the tooth to cure the resin, and the treatment is complete. No drilling is necessary, and anesthesia typically isn’t required.

“Since this is a no-shot and no-drill treatment, it is popular with patients,” said Nathaniel Lawson, DMD, the division director of biomaterials at the university’s school of dentistry. “And since no tooth is removed, it is a very conservative procedure.”

The one-of-a-kind resin infiltration has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and commercially available in Germany, though it is only used in clinical trials in the United States. The UAB Clinical Research Center is now conducting the largest US clinical trial of the product, enrolling 150 patients in the study.

“I never thought this would be possible for dentistry,” said Robles, who agrees with Lawson that it could be a game-changer for the profession if adopted nationally. “In my 24 years of practicing, this changes everything we’ve done so far. It’s marvelous.”

There are prerequisites for treatment, though. It only works in between teeth or on smooth surfaces where there are small cavities. Some cavities that are large or on top of teeth aren’t suited for this kind of system because the liquid resin used cannot build up shapes.

“The resin has to be liquid to be able to be absorbed into the cavities in between teeth,” Robles said. “So at this point, the application is pretty specific.”

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