Earlier this year, researchers at King’s College London developed a new method of tooth repair by stimulating the renewal of living stem cells in tooth pulp via a drug typically used to treat Alzheimer’s patients. Since then, the team has found that this cost-effective method of enhancing the reparative capacity of teeth also applies to non-exposed pulp, which is the more common form of cavities.
Decay and trauma can affect the outer enamel, the dentine in the middle of the tooth, or the soft dental pulp inside the tooth. Previously, the researchers found that the drug could protect the soft dental pulp by stimulating the production of dentine, which is the tooth’s natural method of repair. In their latest work, the researchers found that the drug also works on the middle layer without pulp exposure by increasing the natural secretion of reactionary dentin.
“Early in the year, we showed that we can stimulate natural tooth repair by activating resident tooth stem cells. This approach, which is simple and cost effective, was used in teeth that had the vital layer (dental pulp) of the tooth exposed to the outer environment,” said Paul Sharpe, PhD, director of the Centre of Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology at King’s College London.
“Now we have demonstrated that this same approach can be used in situations of shallow dentine damage where differentiated cells (not stem cells) required activation. This type of damage to the tooth is the most common case that dentists see in the dental practice,” said Sharpe.
The researchers believe their work could lead to clinical products. Currently, the researchers note, there are no dental products that act through the Wnt cascade, which is the group of proteins that pass signals in cells responsible for normal tooth development.
“By showing that we can use small molecules for activation of Wnt/B-catening signaling after shallow and deep dental injury, we open doors to have materials made that trigger the natural path of tooth repair, either in exposed dental pulp or non-exposed dental pulp,” said Vitor Neves, a PhD student at the Dental Institute at King’s College London.
“The reinforced dentine would protect the dental pulp from irreversible pulpitis, meaning that minor cavities could be stopped before they turn into more serious issues, were root canals or tooth extractions are required,” said Neves.
As with the previous study, the researchers used biodegradable collagen sponges to deliver the treatment and showed that the small molecule drugs can penetrate the intact dentine and reach the target cells in the pulp. Collagen sponges, however, are unlikely to be suitable for clinical delivery in this case, and the team is working on a new delivery system. The latest study was published by the Journal of Dental Research.