Could this drug mean the end of dental fillings?

A team of researchers at King’s College London have found evidence that tooth pulp can be naturally healed with the help of an Alzheimer’s drug.

Scientists at King’s College London have discovered a method for healing tooth pulp naturally. Normally, a tooth produces a thin band of dentine to cover the pulp when a tooth is damaged in some way. But this dentine is not always enough to really protect the pulp. For larger holes, such as caries, the dentine is not enough to fully heal the wound.

To make up for this, dentists use synthetic cements and fillings to treat these larger holes. However, while these do fill the hole, they fail to restore the normal mineral level of the tooth because they do not disintegrate.

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To overcome this, researchers at King’s College London began studying the effects of stem cells, specifically how to renew in order to facilitate dentine production, as reported in science daily. In their paper, “Promotion of natural tooth repair by small molecule GSK3 antagonists” published in Scientific Reports, they found that a drug currently in clinical trials to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Tideglusib, was effective in stimulating stem cells in the pulp to create dentine.

The drug was applied to biodegradable collagen sponges and then applied to the tooth. As the sponge degraded, dentine replaced it. This led to natural, complete repair and protection of the tooth. The researchers hope "this simple, rapid natural tooth repair process could potentially provide a new approach to clinical tooth restoration."

The potential benefits of this treatment method are enormous. Dentists would no longer have to rely on synthetic materials, instead allowing natural dentine to treat a large caries. Gone would be the need to drill a larger hole to fill, meaning the tooth could be healthier and more intact after treatment. Perhaps best of all, if fillings and cements could be removed, there would be a decreased chance of infection.

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Scientists hope to be able to put this method into clinical trials soon. Because Tideglusib is already in clinical trials and collagen sponges are commercially available, scientists hope the process could be relatively quick.

Lead author of the study, Professor Paul Sharpe from King's College London says: "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."