A seemingly pain-free alternative to agonising fillings may soon be available.
Scientists have developed a new treatment method to fill in small cavities between teeth without using a drill.
Normally, a patient's mouth is numbed, with dentists then drilling away the tooth structure to access the cavity.
The new treatment, called resin infiltration, involves the dentist sliding a perforated sheet between the teeth with the cavities.
No drilling is required and the procedure, being trialed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is typically completed without the need for anesthesia.
Dr Augusto Robles, from the university's school of dentistry said: 'When we develop cavities between teeth, sometimes we have to go through the tooth, and we end up damaging healthy tooth structure.
'This new system allows us to skip the drilling and helps us preserve that structure.
'I never thought this would be possible for dentistry. In my 24 years of practicing, this changes everything we've done so far. It's marvellous.'
Resin infiltration involves cleaning the cavity by pushing a gel through the perforated sheet.
The tooth is then filled by pushing a liquid resin through the perforated sheet. Finally, a dental curing light is applied to the tooth to cure the resin.
This potentially painless therapy is expected to win patient approval.
Dr Nathaniel Lawson, also from the university, added: 'Since this is a no-shot and no-drill treatment, it is popular with patients.
'And since no tooth is removed, it is a very conservative procedure.'
Yet, while this new treatment may offer a pain-free solution for some, not all patients will be able to benefit from the drill-dodging procedure.
Resin infiltration is only possible in between teeth or on smooth surfaces where there are small cavities.
Cavities that are large or on top of teeth will not suit this type of treatment as the liquid resin used cannot build up shapes.
Dr Robles said: 'The resin has to be liquid to be able to be absorbed into the cavities in between teeth.
'So at this point, the application is pretty specific.'
Resin infiltration is already FDA-approved and available in Germany.
This comes months after scientists invented fillings that help teeth to self-repair from ongoing decay.
Developed by experts at Queen Mary University of London, the compound - known as bioactive glass - is expected to do away with mercury fillings.