Filling without drilling


Smiles all roundA pain free and cheaper alternative to surgical intervention.

Tooth decay begins when acid produced by the bacteria in plaque dissolves the tooth minerals, resulting in microscopic pores in the teeth creating a decay lesion ("caries"). Researchers at Leeds Dental Institute in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry have developed a method for 'Filling without Drilling' that uses a low viscosity protein-based fluid which is painted onto the tooth surface where it infiltrates into the pores of any early decay lesion. Once inside the pores, the fluid tranforms to become a gel which then attracts calcium ions to rebuild the tooth mineral, bringing about a natural repair, without the pain or discomfort usually associated with a traditional drilling procedure.


In 1997, researchers at Leeds reported on peptides that were able to spontaneously form fibrillar scaffolds in response to specific environmental triggers. This technology was patented and since then a range of applications for these self-assembling peptides (SAPs) has been explored, led by Dr Amalia Aggeli. Under specific conditions, SAPs form micrometer-long 'nanotapes.' Further assembly can then be induced so that the nanotapes stack in pairs to form ribbons, which in turn can further assemble to form fibrils and pairs of fibrils entwine edge-to-edge to form fibres. Once assembled, SAP fibrillar networks form scaffold-like structures which mirror the biological macromolecules found in tissues.


Benefits of 'Filling without drilling' includes:

  • It is a cheaper alternative to surgical intervention.
  • Greater patient acceptability - it takes away the fear factor of the drill.
  • Increased attendance by patients, increasing possibility of early detection of disease.
  • Increased treatment safety margin.
  • It removes the need to remove healthy tissue.
  • It removes uncertainty for clinicians - around whether to treat early signs of decay.
  • It could contribute to the reduction of dental healthcare inequalities by driving down costs.

"This may sound too good to be true, but we are essentially helping acid-damaged teeth to regenerate themselves. It is a totally natural non-surgical repair process and is entirely pain-free too," said Professor Jennifer Kirkham, from the University of Leeds Dental Institute, who led development of the new technique.

The route to market

Dental technology company Credentis was granted the license to use SAP technology in dental applications. The 'Filling without drilling' technology has recently undergone proof of concept clinical trials, with excellent success in the treatment of early enamel lesions. Credentis will soon begin multi-centre trials based on these results.

Future aspirations

This technology can also be applied to bone regeneration. Our vision is to utilise SAPs for bone regeneration in maxillo-facial applications. Animal studies have already been completed in a critical defect model and the results are promising. SAPs showed bone regeneration that is as good as, or better than, current commercially available competitors.

To find out more contact Professor Jennifer Kirkham or Dr Amalia Aggeli, or visit the Credentis website