A new method of rejuvenating rotten teeth using an Alzheimer’s drug has been discovered by a team of researchers at King’s College London.
Teeth already have the capability of regenerating dentine if the pulp inside the tooth becomes exposed through a trauma or infection, but can only make a very thin layer, not enough to fill the deep cavities caused by tooth decay. The new therapy works by enhancing this natural ability of teeth to repair themselves through the activation of stem cells in the soft pulp at the center of the tooth.
Researchers found that the drug Tideglusib switches off an enzyme called GSK-3 which prevents dentine from carrying on forming, thus stimulating the stem cells contained in the pulp of teeth so that they generate new dentine.
This biological approach could see teeth use their natural ability to repair large cavities rather than using cements or fillings, which are prone to infections and often need replacing a number of times. Indeed when fillings fail or infection occurs, dentists have to remove and fill an area that is larger than what is affected, and after multiple treatments the tooth may eventually need to be extracted.
Prof Paul Sharpe, who led the work at King’s College London, said: “Almost everyone on the planet has tooth decay at some time – it’s a massive volume of people being treated. We’ve deliberately tried to make something really simple, really quick and really cheap.”
However, the new treatment would not eliminate the need for the dentist’s drill, since decaying sections of the tooth would still need to be removed. “Sorry, you’re still going to have the drill, you can’t get away from that, I’m afraid,” said Sharpe.
Although the process looks promising, it won’t be in your dentists’ office anytime soon because so far it has only been tried on mice.
Sharpe’s team is currently testing the process on the larger teeth of rats. “After that, we will apply for approval and funding for a human clinical trial,” he said.
Unfortunately, results of animal tests aren’t necessarily applicable to humans.