•As Self-repair Of Teeth Replaces Fillings – Scientists
By Chioma Umeha
Teeth can be encouraged to repair themselves in a way that could see an end to fillings, say scientists.
Scientific Reports, an online journal said: “The stem cells in our teeth can be energized to fill in chips, cracks, and cavities, researchers say, and the findings could one day possibly make dental cement obsolete.”
The work has been conducted just in mice so far, but the research, published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports, highlights a way to motivate stem cells to repair tooth defects at a scale they normally cannot, with a drug that already has some safety testing behind it.
The team at King’s College London showed that a chemical could encourage cells in the dental pulp to heal small holes in mice teeth.
A biodegradable sponge was soaked in the drug and then put inside the cavity.
The study, published in Science Reports, showed it led to “complete, effective natural repair”.
Teeth have limited regenerative abilities. They can produce a thin band of dentine – the layer just below the enamel – if the inner dental pulp becomes exposed, but this cannot repair a large cavity.
Normally dentists have to repair tooth decay or caries with a filling made of a metal amalgam or a composite of powdered glass and ceramic.
These can often need replacing multiple times during someone’s lifetime, so the researchers tried to enhance the natural regenerative capacity of teeth to repair larger holes.
They discovered that a drug called Tideglusib heightened the activity of stem cells in the dental pulp so they could repair 0.13mm holes in the teeth of mice.
A drug-soaked sponge was placed in the hole and then a protective coating was applied over the top.
As the sponge broke down it was replaced by dentine, healing the tooth.
Prof Paul Sharpe, one of the researchers, said: “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 at King’s is now investigating whether the approach can repair larger holes.
Prof Sharpe said a new treatment could be available soon: “I don’t think it’s massively long term, it’s quite low-hanging fruit in regenerative medicine and hopeful in a three-to-five year period this would be commercially available.”
The field of regenerative medicine – which encourages cells to rapidly divide to repair damage – often raises concerns about cancer.