Nobody likes a trip to the dentist or wakes up for that matter saying, “Yeah, I get to go to the dentist today!”. Because more often than not, it means that somewhere within your mouth, something is causing you pain. And to make that pain go away, a dentist has to do a drilling here and a filling there that usually hurts a little, and sometimes a lot. And so even with all the advances done in dental medicine, a trip to the dentist still remains as one of the least liked trips ever.
Thanks to research done by scientists from the Dental Institute at King’s College London, one of the most common dental procedures, which is having your tooth filled, may soon become obsolete. And the best part is, the treatment will make use of one of the body’s natural defenses. We’re referring to dentine — a mineralised material that the body naturally produces to protect the innermost tissue in the tooth (known as tooth pulp).
Right now, the treatment for a cracked tooth or one that has a cavity involves filling it with cement or some other type of material. The procedure of drilling and filling is rarely ever painless. And the treatment itself is prone to infection and periodically needs repeating. Because in cases when the filling deteriorates, what was once a small cavity may get infected that it becomes an even bigger cavity. So the original filling will have to be removed, and the bigger cavity will need to be filled in again. And the process will continue until the worst case scenario when the tooth eventually needs to get extracted because filling it will no longer work. With natural teeth repair, these concerns will become nonexistent.
Normally, our body generates only a thin layer of dentine, just enough to do its function of sealing in the tooth pulp so it won’t get exposed or infected. But if our cells are induced to produce more dentine faster, it might be able to do more than just protect tooth pulp. It may become extensive enough that it can cover even larger cavities, thereby eliminating the need to go through the painful drilling and tooth filling process.
To make accelerated dentine production possible, a new drug that’s already being tested to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease is going to be used. It will be applied via biodegradable collagen sponges which will be packed into the crack or cavity in the tooth that needs repairing. The medicine is supposed to stimulate stem cell renewal and dentine production. And as the tooth fills itself with the needed dentine, the sponges will simply dissolve. And all’s well that ends well. No more pain from the broken tooth. And no pain from the treatment either.
More good news — we probably don’t have to wait too long for the treatment to become accepted practice because the drug involved is already being used in clinical trials. And even the collagen sponges are already commercially available too. Less hurdles mean better chances of getting approved faster. And for anyone who’s ever had to go through an agonizing tooth filling process, this is great news indeed.
Details of the research have been published online on January 9, 2017 through the journal Scientific Reports. Lead author of the study is Professor Paul Sharpe.