Dental drills and fillings are one of the reasons many people avoid or dread a visit to the dentist. New research may have found a way to treat cavities without the pain and anxiety of the drill.
Alzheimer’s drug Tideglusib is currently being used in clinical trials to encourage brain cell growth. Now a research team from King’s College London have successfully used the drug to regrow dentin, the layer of tooth that protects the pulp, in mice.
How Does It Work?
The drug works by switching off enzyme GSK-3, which prevents our bodies from regrowing dentin. The King’s College team soaked collagen sponges already on the market in Tideglusib and placed them into cavities in mice. As the sponges disintegrated, constantly releasing the medication, the teeth began to form new dentin, healing the decay. Researchers are hopeful that because the drug is already being used in clinical trials, it may find its way into dental practices faster.
What About the Enamel?
The study focused on regrowing the dentin, which is the second layer of the tooth. A filling would still be required to replace the enamel lost due to decay if this treatment makes it into regular practice. However, research is being conducted into restoring entire teeth using natural processes such as this one. One such study has developed a hydrogel that could possibly grow enamel and reduce lesions by up to 70 percent.
Teeth have three layers, according to Dr. John Pappas, DDS, of Arcadia Dental Arts in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Although enamel, the outermost layer, is the hardest substance in the human body, it can’t grow back once it’s lost,” he said. “The second layer, dentin, is actually nine times softer than enamel and protects the pulp, the innermost layer.”
The pulp is the part of the tooth that contains all the living tissue. Stopping a cavity before it reaches the pulp is essential to avoiding more complicated treatments such as a root canal.
How Can Cavities Be Reversed?
At this time, there’s no scientifically proven way to reverse tooth decay once a cavity has formed. However, if decay is still in the early stages of demineralization, there is hope.
White spots on teeth are often a sign that demineralization is occurring.
“There are actually two main causes of white spots on teeth,” said Pappas. “Too much fluoride can cause white spots referred to as hyperfluorosis. The second cause is due to acid produced by bacteria causing decay.”
The body’s built-in help for this is saliva. Saliva contains minerals that can help remineralize teeth if decay has started. There are some ways you can help the process too, said Pappas, such as:
- Make sure you’re using a fluoride toothpaste and rinse.
- Check your toothbrush for frayed bristles and replace if necessary.
- Cut sugar out of your diet completely or limit consumption.
- Drink more water, especially after snacks and meals.
- Eat more vegetables.
- Drink green tea.
- Talk to your doctor about your Vitamin D levels.