The sound of drilling could eventually be a faint memory for dental patients.

Scientists have found that a new peptide embedded inside a soft gel has regenerative powers on teeth.

When placed next to a cavity, the soft gel or thin flexible film encourages the cells inside the teeth to regenerate in about a month, according to a study published May 27 in the journal ACS Nano. The technology is supposedly the first of its kind.

The gel could eliminate the need to fill cavities or drill deep into the root canal of an infected tooth.

“It’s not like toothpaste,” said Nadia Benkirane-Jessel, Ph.D., a scientist at the Institute National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale and the co-author of the study. “Here we are really trying to control cavities.”

The finding could make a trip to the dentist’s office more pleasant, said Dr. Berkirane-Jessel, Ph.D. Instead of a drill, patients could receive a dab of gel or a thin film against an infected tooth, healing the teeth from within.

The gel contains a peptide known as MSH, or melanocyte-stimulating hormone. Previous experiments have showed that MSH encourages bone regeneration. Since bones and teeth are fairly similar, the French scientists reasoned the result could be the same and tested the film on mice teeth, finding success.

Benkirane-Jessel cautions that the MSH-containing films or gels only treat cavities, they don’t prevent them.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to prevent cavities. The ADA also advises people to floss every day, limit between-meal snacks and visit their dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.

Curated by Nima Dayani of Endodontics, Oral Surgery and Dental Implants Rehabilitation of New York City