One could facilitate the natural repair of rotten teeth in a way that could put an end to tooth fillings.

The therapy introduced by researchers out of King’s College London in the United Kingdom works through enhancing the teeth’s naturally ability to regenerate through the activation of stem cells founds in the soft pulp of tooth center.

“We’ve deliberately tried to make something really simple, really quick and really cheap,” said lead researcher and professor Paul Sharpe in a Guardian report.

'Tooth Repair Drug' vs. Dental Fillings

The trial conducted in mice soaked a biodegradable sponge in an Alzheimer’s drug, which then helped the tooth slowly rebuild its own cavities that extend from the surface to the root. The mechanism is normally limited to repair of small holes and cracks in the dentine, the layer located just below the enamel.

This therapy restores the integrity of the dentine versus conventional fillings whose metal amalgam or composite weakens the tooth and leave it vulnerable to infections in the future. Such dental cements could also eventually erode or become detached.

Since it encourages natural repair, the new method could also eliminate the need to extract teeth with large cavities.

While fillings work just fine, it is better to restore the full vitality of the tooth than “replace a living tissue with an inert cement,” Sharpe explained.

Note, however, that the dental treatment would still be needed since tooth decay needs to be removed.

From Alzheimer’s Treatment To Potential Tooth Wonder

The drug in question, tideglusib, has been assessed for potential Alzheimer’s therapy and is deemed clinically safe. It alters a series of cells’ chemical signals known as Wnt, which has been linked to certain tumors.

In previous tests, the drug was seen to stimulate stem cells in the tooth center, prompting the development of odontoblasts or specialized tooth cells and enhancing dentine production.

The team drilled holes into mouse teeth, inserted the drug-soaked sponge, and sealed the tooth using a dental adhesive.

They examined the teeth weeks later and found that the sponge has disintegrated, replaced by a new dentine.

"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,” Sharpe told BBC News.

Now the question is if the technique currently tested in rats (with teeth four times bigger than of mice) will adapt to human needs, where cavities can be much larger. The first human clinical trials are expected later this year.

The team is optimistic that the treatment could soon be available, dubbing it “quite low-hanging fruit” in regenerative treatments and touting its potential to be commercially available in a matter of three to five years.

The findings were discussed in the journal Scientific Reports.

A separate team at KCL is also focusing on tooth repair, testing electricity to strengthen a tooth via forcing minerals into the enamel layer. They are applying a mineral mix and using a small electric current to drive minerals into the tooth, a process expected to strengthen it and reduce caries.

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