A British team of researchers from King’s College in London discovered that a drug already trialed in patients suffering from dementia could boost the dental pulp’s cells potential to regenerate and heal small holes in teeth, possibly rendering fillings useless in the near future. Experiments conducted on mice showed that the drug was able to fully heal a 0.13 mm cavity.
A biodegradable sponge was soaked in the drug, called Tideglusib, and consequently placed inside the cavity. The researchers then coated the hole with a thin layer of protective material. After a while, the sponge started to break down and was replaced by dentine, the layer just below the enamel. Scientists said the method was successful and led to complete and effective natural repair of the damaged tooth.
However, some concerns emerge when it comes to toying with regenerative medicine. The practice encourages cells to divide rapidly in order to repair damage. However, ineffective regenerative treatments could result in patients developing various forms of cancer. Health officials are especially skeptical of Tideglusib, since the drug alters a series of chemical signals in cells. These abnormalities have been implicated in some tumors, say the scientists.
Teeth are known for their limited regenerative abilities. Whenever a cavity forms, teeth can only produce a thin layer of dentine. However, fillings are still required, since the natural process cannot repair large holes. The filings are usually made from powdered glass and ceramic or metal. However, once in place, the fillings could break, so the patients will need multiple interventions in their lifetime.
However, because the sponge is biodegradable, once it breaks down, the cavity is filled with only natural tissue, full of minerals. One of the authors of the study, Professor Paul Sharpe says that once dentine fully regenerates it is highly unlikely for the structure to fail in the future.
Furthermore, the researchers believe the product will become available for commercial use in five years’ time if the results observed at higher concentrations are positive. In the meantime, another group of researchers is focusing on using electricity to force minerals into the layer of enamel, preventing cavities altogether. Both these techniques could make fillings a thing of the past, believes Professor Paul Sharpe of King’s College.
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