Is Curing Cavities with Stem Cells in our Near Future?

A medication currently being used to treat Alzheimer’s disease has been successfully used in research to stimulate stem cells and ‘self-heal’ cavities. The drugs, Tideglusib, and glycogen synthase kinase were combined by scientists at King’s College in London and placed on a biodegradable sponge made of collagen. A statement released about the groundbreaking research said “dentine replaces the degraded sponge leading to a complete, effective natural repair. This simple, rapid natural tooth repair process could thus potentially provide a new approach to clinical tooth restoration.”

This process is something our teeth already do naturally in the case of small cavities, but when the hole in the tooth becomes large, an artificial filling material must be placed by a dental professional to avoid decay and infection. Researchers believe this could potentially lead to a new way to repair even the largest cavities in a way that wouldn’t need replacing or fixing later down the road like artificial fillings often do.

Dr. Gregory Kerbel, DDS, PLLC, leading DFW family and cosmetic dentist in Garland, Texas, says,

“Dentin is the soft layer under your enamel. It helps protects the pulp when the enamel is damaged. When the bacteria in your mouth combines with sugars or carbs, it creates acid. Over time the acid breaks down then enamel, this is called demineralization. At first, it’s just a white spot and with a little help can repair itself. However, once the surface of the enamel breaks it can no longer repair itself, and the decay continues into the dentin. Next, it reaches the pulp, the living part of the tooth that is filled with nerves and blood vessels. Without treatment, an infection or abscess will form, and it’s extremely painful. If it spreads, you may eventually need a root canal to remove the damaged pulp tissue or even have to have the tooth pulled.”

There’s still lots of work to be done now that researchers have made this discovery before any of this can implemented in dental offices. One thing that will help their case is that the drug is already on the market for treatment of Alzheimer’s and so has already undergone clinical testing and likely won’t require as much red tape as a brand new medication would. Also, the biodegradable collagen sponges they used are on the market and commercially available.

Many researchers believe this breakthrough is more important than most people realize as it opens the door for the possibility of entire tooth regeneration. Of course, that is still light years away for now, but this is exciting news for the science, dental and medical community worldwide.