Researchers discover an Alzheimer’s Drug Could Potentially End the Need for Fillings

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Wednesday 11th January 2017

A “simple, rapid natural tooth repair process” has been discovered by scientists that could significantly reduce the need for fillings.

The research from King’s College London, published in Scientific Reports, entitled “Promotion of natural tooth repair by small molecule GSK3 antagonists” demonstrated the successful use of Tideglusib, a drug currently being trialled for treatment of dementia, to enhance the natural regenerative capacity of teeth and allow larger cavities to be repaired without the use of filling materials.

“A new approach to clinical tooth restoration”

The focus on the research is based on the restoration of dentine, a tooth material vital to healthy teeth, and lost through either trauma or infection, which causes cavities which expose soft inner dental pulp tissue.

It was known previously that small cavities could be repaired naturally by stem cells in the dental pulp. However, this was limited to very small holes and a very thin layer of dentine, and so in the case of more serious injury or infection the use of fillings was needed to avoid further infection.

The research centres on the use of Tideglusib, a drug being trialled for use for the treatment of dementia, which prevents the activation of the glycogen synthase kinase (GSK-3) enzyme and promote the natural healing process of teeth to continue.

The test, carried out on laboratory mice, involved a 0.13mm hole that was filled with a biodegradable collagen sponge filled with Tideglusib, which as it degrades is replaced by dentine, leading to healthy natural tooth repair. The next step for the team at King’s College is to see if this approach can be translated to larger holes.

New Treatment Available Soon?

According to Professor Paul Sharpe, the “simplicity of this approach” as well as using a drug that has been already trialled at higher doses could mean the new filling-free treatment could be available soon.

Professer Sharpe notes that “it’s quite low-hanging fruit in regenerative medicine and [I am] hopeful in a three to five year period this would be commercially available” The report also notes that the treatment is “ideally translatable into a clinical dental product for treatments requiring dentine restoration and pulp protection that are currently treated with non-organic cements.”

While commonly used dental fillings are effective at covering and protecting the dental pulp area, there is the problem that more and more of the tooth’s minerals need to be drilled out each time to avoid infection as well as the risks of broken or lost fillings.

By enhancing the tooth’s natural ability to restore dentine and the tooth’s surface, the potential for drill-free dentistry and an end to more invasive procedures to fight tooth damage and tooth decay would lead to less dental phobia and could potentially have wider benefits for dental health at large.

Other teams at King’s College are working on further dental restoration research, a notable example being the use of electricity to force minerals into the enamel layer of teeth.