From dental sealants to toothpastes with fluoride, science has provided your Sonora family dentist with a number of exciting tools that help prevent tooth decay. Despite these and other remarkable breakthroughs, 91 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 to 64 still suffer from cavities and decay.
The future of tooth decay may finally seem bleak, however, due to new research suggesting the medications that stimulate cells in the body may be able to “trick” teeth into repairing themselves. If these so-called “small molecule” drugs work as well as researchers hope, we may be on the verge of a new dental breakthrough and an age where gum tissue and even entire teeth can be regrown.
Potentially even more exciting is the fact that small molecule drugs are only one of several new approaches that look promising for the future of tooth regeneration technology.
Stem Cell Use Encouraging
With current technology, when a Sonora family dentist finds a cavity, he will remove the decayed material in the tooth and patch the hole with a filling. However, while fillings can successfully repair the damage caused by tooth decay, they cannot restore the tooth back to full health. Part of the tooth is now missing and will never return.
That could all change in the future. Research has found that drugs can stimulate stem cells within dental pulp – the soft material inside our teeth that contains the blood vessels and nerves – into regrowing enough enamel and dentin to fill the cavity naturally.
Researchers have especially high hopes for Tideglusib, an experimental drug that’s both cheap to manufacture and has an outstanding safety record. While Tideglusib is currently being tested to help fight Alzheimer’s disease, researchers hope the drug can be fast-tracked into clinical trials to determine its ability to regrow teeth.
“The dentin produced by stimulating stem cells with Tideglusib integrates itself completely within the tooth so there’s no risk of the filling coming out, which is a big problem with the current methods, which haven’t changed much in the past 100 years,” says Dr. Paul Sharpe, a professor at Kings College London and leading researcher in the use of Tideglusib. “There’s a big need for biology to impact upon dentistry and drag it out of the 19th century.”
Currently, the effects of Tideglusib has only been studied in rats, but Sharpe hopes to start human trial by the end of 2018.
Lasers Showing Potential
While researchers at Kings College continue to explore a medicinal solution, researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York are looking into a more radical way to regrow teeth. A team is currently testing the use of a low-power laser light that can actually stimulate teeth to regenerate.
When tooth decay reaches the pulp, the long-term health of tooth becomes seriously jeopardized. To save the remaining tooth structure, a root canal is typically needed. This involves removing the damaged tissue inside of a tooth and replacing it with an amalgam filling. The tooth is then sealed and capped. But once again, the damaged tooth is simply restored to health, but the damage is not actually repaired.
Researchers in Buffalo have discovered that by shining laser light directly onto the remaining pulp they can stimulate stem cells to start regrowing healthy dentin. While cosmetic repairs would still be needed, the health of the tooth would be restored far more than what’s currently possible.
While many of these exciting breakthroughs may seem like the stuff of science fiction, the future appears bright for dental care. Now that’s certainly a reason to smile.