Researchers at the King’s College London Dental Institute have developed a new method to stimulate the stem cells contained in the pulp of the tooth to generate new dentin in large cavities by using a drug that typically targets Alzheimer’s patients, potentially reducing the need for fillings or cements.
Following trauma or an infection, the inner, soft pulp of a tooth can become exposed or infected. To protect the tooth, a thin band of dentin is naturally produced to seal the pulp, though this is insufficient to effectively repair large cavities.
Dentists currently use manmade cements or fillings such as calcium and silicon-based products to treat these larger cavities and fill holes in teeth. But manmade cements remain in the tooth and fails to disintegrate, so the normal mineral level of the tooth is never completely restored. The new approach could see teeth use their natural ability to repair large cavities instead of using cements or fillings, which are prone to infections and often need multiple replacements.
When fillings fail or infection occurs, dentists have to remove and fill in an area that’s larger than what’s affected. After multiple treatments, the tooth eventually may need extraction. By encouraging natural tooth repair, the new method could eliminate all of these issues to provide a more natural solution for patients.
One of the small molecules that the researchers used to stimulate the renewal of the stem cells included Tideglusib, which previously has been used in clinical trials to treat neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers believe that this presents a real opportunity to fast-track the treatment into practice.
Using biodegradable collagen sponges to deliver the treatment, the researchers applied low doses of small molecule glycogen synthase kinase to the tooth. The sponge then degraded with time and new dentin replaced it, leading to complete, natural repair. Collagen sponges are commercially available and clinically approved, adding to the potential of the treatment’s swift pickup and use in dental clinics.
“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 dentin,” said Paul Sharpe, PhD, lead author of the study and head of the Craniofacial and Development and Stem Cell Biology Division at the King’s College London Dental Institute.
“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,” Sharpe said.
The study, “Promotion of Natural Tooth Repair by a Small Molecule GSK3 Antagonists,” was published by Scientific Reports.