tooth decayAnother year, another spate of stories about saying goodbye to the dental drill and hello to “self-repairing” teeth. Unlike most, though, this latest possibility – still in the expermental stages – actually sounds very practical and very promising.

Research just published in Scientific Reports shows that an Alzheimer’s drug called Tideglusib stimulated dentin growth in mice – enough to fully heal sites that were experimentally damaged for the study. (Normally, the layer of protective dentin that an injured tooth lays down isn’t thick enough to block infection.)

How did they do it?

Using biodegradable collagen sponges to deliver the treatment, the team applied low doses of small molecule glycogen synthase kinase (GSK-3) inhibitors to the tooth. They found that the sponge degraded over time and that new dentine replaced it, leading to complete, natural repair. Collagen sponges are commercially-available and clinically-approved, again adding to the potential of the treatment’s swift pick-up and use in dental clinics.

Lead author of the study, Professor Paul Sharpe from King’s College London said: “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.

“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.”

Yes, it’s a drug, but it’s one that appears to stimulate the natural healing response of the mother cell of the extracellular matrix, the fibroblast. And that – stimulating the natural healing response – is the basic goal of treatment in biological dental medicine.

At this point, it seems the benefits would far outweigh the costs, should this treatment become widely available. But will it? Time will tell…

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