Diamonds could turn out to be a dentist’s best friend, according to research carried out in the United States.

Gold, silver and porcelain are among the many materials dentists can use to fix damaged teeth but the research suggests that microscopic diamonds could have a role to play as well, according to the American Chemical Society. The scientists have developed a new material with nanodiamonds that has the potential to improve current root canal therapies and help prevent future infection. Millions of people undergo root canal procedures every year to clear out damaged or infected pulp, the soft part in the middle of a tooth. Dentists tend to use a rubber compound called gutta-percha to fill the gaps. In some cases, however, a patient’s tooth can get re-infected, which calls for another treatment. To prevent this from happening, researchers have been exploring other fillers, including nanodiamonds.

Researcher Dean Ho and his colleagues combined nanodiamonds, gutta-percha and amoxicillin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, into a new material.  Laboratory testing showed it was stronger than gutta-percha by itself and was effective at killing Staphylococcus aureus, which is one of the bacteria responsible for root canal re-infections. The scientists say future studies will check whether the composite works in clinical practice. Funding for the research came from the National Science Foundation, the Center for Scalable and Integrated NanoManufacturing, the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, the Society for the Laboratory Automation and Screening and Beckman Coulter Life Sciences.