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Are Self-Healing Teeth Possible?

Feb 16, 2017

By Dean George

Have you heard the joke that says, “Be kind to your dentist because he has fillings too?” Both dentists doing tooth fillings and patients needing them should have a good feeling about a new fillings study.

A new British study by researchers at King’s College London has successfully shown that a clinically approved drug to treat Alzheimer’s may have the ability to stimulate the renewal of tooth dentin.

In other words, current materials used to fill tooth cavities like amalgam and resin may become tooth repair history in the not too distant future.

The King’s College London researchers confirmed that the Alzheimer’s treatment drug Tideglusib stimulates the stem cells contained in the pulp of teeth to generate new dentin. Dentin is the mineralized material under tooth enamel that protects the tooth pulp.

Tideglusib deactivates an enzyme called GSK-3 that inhibits dentine forming.  In the recent study, researchers soaked a tiny biodegradable sponge with Tideglusib and inserted it into the decaying tooth of a mouse.

Over a six-week period the drug triggered the growth of dentine in mouse teeth, leaving only the reformed tooth after the collagen sponge dissolved over time.

Scientists have known for years that activating the stem cells in tooth pulp can help teeth self-repair. Until now though, the self-repairing of teeth was limited to tiny cracks and holes on a tooth’s surface.

What is exciting about the recent King’s College study is that Tideglusib may help further that self-regeneration process by filling in the larger cracks and holes from the surface of a tooth to its root.

“The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine,” said King's College Dental Institute Professor Paul Sharpe.

“In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics,” he added.

Using this new method would still require the drilling and clearing of a tooth’s cavity, but unlike the current calcium and silicon-based products used in fillings today, there’s the potential that the revitalized tooth dentin would be less susceptible to decay and disintegration.

The question researchers will look at next is whether the drug-soaked sponges will work on larger teeth. King’s College researchers are now running tests on rats and plan to move to clinical trials on humans later this year.

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