When teeth develop cavities or become damaged through trauma, the soft pulp in the tooth can be exposed. The damaged tooth is then protected by dentin, a hard substance created naturally by the body to help keep foreign objects out of the tooth. This dentin is found just under the enamel. While teeth have some natural regenerative abilities, if the cavity or damage is large, not enough dentin is produced, leaving the pulp exposed.
, the exposed pulp can only be treated by having a dentist drill out the area and fill it with man-made products such as silicon and calcium-based materials. This procedure works well but fillings sometimes fall out and have to be replaced. And as we all know, having teeth drilled is not a pleasant experience.
Researchers at King’s College in London discovered the drug Tideglusib acts as a stimulant to stem cells in the tooth and causes those cells to produce more dentin. The drug works by blocking the enzyme that prevents the growth of dentin. The excess dentin protects the soft pulp in the tooth without the necessity of inserting materials into the cavity.
Tideglusib has already been used in clinical trials to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and autism. Because these trials have already been conducted, researchers believe they will be able to fast-track use of the drug in dental work.
Tideglusib has already been tested on the teeth of mice
. Researchers soaked biodegradable collagen sponges with the drug and placed the sponge in the tooth's cavity. After a few weeks, the sponge degraded and enough dentin was produced to fill the cavity. The scientists plan further testing in rats that have larger cavities than those found in mice. If this proves successful, human tests will be conducted.
Professor Paul Sharpe, one of the researchers, said the key factor in the procedure
is the fact that the sponge is degradable. The space occupied by the sponge is replaced by dentin and there is nothing in the tooth that can fail in the future.
Use of regenerative medicine raises the possibility of causing cancer but Sharpe said the safety of Tideglusib has already been tested in larger doses than what will be used in teeth. Because of the work already done with the drug, he is looking at a three- to five-year-period before the procedure can be used to treat people with cavities.
A paper on this research was published on Monday in the journal Scientific Reports