Happy smiles all round with alternative to fillings suggested

10 Jan 2017

Image: ArtFamily/Shutterstock

With the help of some modern Alzheimer’s medication and a small piece of sponge, the need for contemporary fillings may be no more, thanks to a team of researchers at King’s College London.

Dentists currently fix teeth cavities by pumping them full of a concrete-like mix of calcium or silicon-based products. Essentially blocking off any avenues for infection, the process is effective, if a shortcut.

The tooth never fully heals, with the naturally occurring dentine not effective enough to plug the holes – thus the need for a filling.

However, thanks to a novel piece of research published in Scientific Reports, that may all be about to change.

Using various molecules (including the Alzeheimer’s-treating Tideglusib), loading them onto a biodegradable sponge and implanting them in the tooth, Prof Paul Sharpe and his colleagues spotted something.

A low dose of small molecule glycogen synthase kinase-3, which promotes dentine regrowth, was applied and the sponge began degrading gradually. Remarkably, over time, a new layer of dentine grew and replaced it, leading to a complete and natural repair of the tooth.

The idea of ‘fast track’ is all over this research, with both the collagen sponges and Tideglusib already on the market.

“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 dentine,” said Sharpe, who was lead author on the study.

“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 broad nature of tooth decay problems – with a huge volume of people being treated around the world – meant investigating a “really simple, really quick and really cheap” solution was his priority.

“The tooth is not just a lump of mineral, it’s got its own physiology. You’re replacing a living tissue with an inert cement,” said Sharpe to The Guardian.

“Fillings work fine, but if the tooth can repair itself, surely [that’s] the best way. You’re restoring all the vitality of the tooth.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic