Researchers have found a way to regenerate rotten teeth. Using a drug normally given to treat those with Alzheimer’s, a team of scientists have managed to repair cavities by stimulating the naturally occurring stem cells in the tooth to rebuild its dense bony tissue.
While dentists can treat tooth decay and cavities, the solution is not always satisfactory. Current cements used to fill in the holes can crack or disintegrate, often leading to repeated jobs for the worst cavities. Eventually, it can even lead to the tooth in question being removed, as the hole can never fully be treated. But by treating the cavities with an already established drug, known as tideglusib, the researchers have managed to do something remarkable.
Teeth are made up of different layers. While the top of the gnasher is formed by a layer of tough enamel, underneath this is a thick layer of dentin, which surrounds a soft, pulpy core. The center of the tooth contains stem cells, but this can only lead to limited repair in the dentin and is not sufficient if the damage or hole in the tooth is too great.
The team trialed the drug on mice, treating their cavities with a biodegradable collagen sponge soaked in tideglusib. Over time, the sponge degraded and was replaced by newly synthesized dentine, effectively a natural repair job by the tooth’s own stem cells. Because this method encourages the body to heal itself, it gets rid of many of the problems that often plague current techniques.
“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,” explains Professor Paul Sharpe, lead author of the study published in Nature, in a statement. “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.”
The ability for the tooth to heal itself could revolutionize how dentists treat cavities, especially considering it could potentially be fast-tracked into clinical use.