smileIf you’ve ever wished the dental drill would become a thing of the past, you’re not alone. Dentists have long pondered if, and how, decayed teeth could be regenerated, not just restored.

New research suggests one new approach that could soon use your teeth’s own cells to rebuild natural tooth structure. The key lies in stimulating the natural formation of reparative dentin by stimulating resident stem cells in the tooth pulp.

For the study, researchers treated biodegradable, clinically-approved collagen sponges with very low doses of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug called Tideglusib. They then placed the sponges on the damaged teeth of mice. As the biodegradable carrier sponge degraded slowly over time, a significant amount of dentin replaced it, leading to full, natural repair of the tooth.

This works because Tideglusib blocks the enzyme that usually stops dentin growth.

Lead author of the study, Professor Paul Sharpe from King’s College London said: “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.

“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.”

This is promising news – not only because most of us will need a tooth restored at one time or another, but because oral health is tied intrinsically to systematic health. Such a restoration would be truly biocompatible.

But just as natural teeth can fail, so can restored teeth. When decay compromises a tooth’s pulp chamber, it can jeopardize the tooth, ultimately leading to a root canal or extraction, both of which have been shown to further compromise overall health.

Certainly the ability to regenerate natural tooth structure offers a promising prognosis for long-term oral health. This is one area of research we’ll definitely be watching for new developments.

Image by Randall Wade (Rand) Grant

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