Local anesthetics are essential to dental work. But research from the Plymouth University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUSMD) suggest they may affect the growth of tooth cells and the development of children’s teeth, possibly inducing tooth agenesis through unknown mechanisms.
Using pig teeth and human young permanent tooth pulp cells, the researchers found that long durations of exposure to high concentrations of local anesthetics interfere with the mitochondria, or the batteries, of tooth cells. Such exposure also induces autophagy, or cell death.
“Our study has shown for the first time the evidence that local anesthetics may affect the development of children’s teeth in cellular and molecular levels,” said Dr. Bing Hu, associate professor in oral and dental health research at PUSMD.
According to the researchers, dental treatment involves more frequent use of local anesthetics than any other clinical area. Although the maximum dosages of various local anesthetics have been established, their side effects on dental tissue have until now not been fully investigated.
The research examined several local anesthetics used in dental clinics in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and China. Despite the identification of this harmful effect, the researchers note that further clinical studies are required before there is enough data to change clinical guidelines. They also urge parents not to be alarmed or withdraw their children from treatment if they need it.
“But we do expect, in time, to improve clinical guidelines through our research to minimize the dosage of local anesthetic drugs,” Hu said.
The full research is available from Cell Death Discovery.