Scientists have come up with a novel new way to treat tooth decay, something that could lead to a significant reduction in dental fillings. Dentists have found that they can stimulate the natural ability of teeth to repair themselves by activating stem cells found in the tooth itself. The stem cell stimulation technique was developed by scientists from the University of Nottingham and Harvard University. Some dentists began using it last year but it’s only been able to repair small cracks and holes. However, scientists have now found that the process can be enhanced with a drug used to treat Alzheimer’s. The new tooth “filling” works by stimulating stem cells to encourage the growth of dentin—the bony material that makes up the majority of the tooth—allowing patients to effectively regrow teeth that are damaged through dental disease. It’s a lot more efficient and less painful and uncomfortable than the current process of drilling out the decay and putting in an artificial filling. Dental cement used in conventional fillings weaken the tooth, leaving it prone to future infections – and inevitably erode or detach. Most patients end up needing the whole tooth removed at a later date, which typically involves a root canal. Using the Alzheimer’s drug to enhance the stem cell regeneration comes from researchers at King’s College London. The new method still requires the decayed tooth to be drilled out, unfortunately. In the study, published in Scientific Reports, the scientists drilled holes into the teeth of mice, inserted a biodegradable collagen sponge soaked in a drug called tideglusib and sealed the tooth with a dental adhesive. Over the course of a few weeks, the sponge degrades and new dentine begins filling in the missing part of the tooth. Clinical trials may not be far off though as the sponges and drug are already approved for human medical use. The researchers say that the simplicity of their approach will hopefully turn out to be the ideal dental treatment and one that they can get into local dentists offices rather quickly. (Source: Gaurdian, New Atlas)

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