Your body can repair itself somewhat, however, your teeth are an exception. A thin layer of dentine is produced – the layer just below the enamel – if the inner dental pulp is exposed. However, this isn’t enough to repair a larger cavity.
Dentists usually repair tooth decay with a filling which is made of a metal amalgam or a composite of powdered glass and ceramic.
Since this process needs replacing on a timely basis, the researchers tried to come up with a way that can enhance the natural regenerative capacity of teeth to repair larger holes.
The team at King’s College London showed that a chemical can encourage cells in the dental pulp in mice to heal small holes in their teeth.
Teeth can be encouraged to repair themselves in a way that could see an end to fillings.
They socked a biodegradable sponge in a drug called Tideglusib which was then put inside the cavity, with a protective coating applied over the top.
Tideglusib boosted the activity of stem cells present in the dental pulp so they could repair 0.13 mm holes in the mice teeth. It stops the GSK-3 enzyme from forming dentine, thus healing the teeth.
No Replacement Needed
Prof Paul Sharpe is one of the researchers who told the BBC News website:
The sponge is biodegradable, that’s the key thing. The space occupied by the sponge becomes full of minerals as the dentine regenerates so you don’t have anything in there to fail in the future.
The team of Kings College is investigating whether this drug can repair larger holes.
“I don’t think it’s massively long term, it’s quite the low-hanging fruit in regenerative medicine and hopefully in a three-to-five-year period this would be commercially available”, says the Professor. He also informed that the treatment would soon be available for human testing.
Risk of Cancer?
Though, a concern arises about cancer because the regenerative medicine invigorates the cells to swiftly divide to repair the damage. Tideglusib modifies a string of chemical signals in cells, called Wnt, which has been the cause of tumors in human beings.
“The safety work has been done and at much higher concentrations so hopefully we’re on to a winner,” said Prof Sharpe.
They tested the drug on patients as a potential dementia therapy as well. By far, this is the latest approach in repairing the teeth. Another group at King’s believes that electricity can be used to amplify a tooth by forcing minerals into layers of enamels.