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Alzheimer's drug can encourage tooth regrowth and repair cavities, say scientists

09-Jan-17
Article By: Melissa McAlees, News Editor

A drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease has been found to naturally encourage tooth regrowth and repair cavities, significantly reducing the need for fillings, according to new research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Scientists from the Dental Institute at King’s College London have found a new way to stimulate the stem cells contained in the pulp of the tooth and generate new dentine – the mineralised material that protects the tooth - in large cavities, potentially reducing the need for fillings or cements.

Lead author of the study, professor Paul Sharpe from King’s College London said: “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.

“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.”

Following trauma or an infection, the inner, soft pulp of a tooth can become exposed and infected. To protect the tooth from infection, a thin band of dentine is naturally produced, but is insufficient to effectively repair large cavities.

The researchers found that the natural repair mechanism could be boosted if the drug Tideglusib was used. It has previously been used in clinical trials to treat neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease.

Using biodegradable collagen sponges to deliver the treatment, the research team applied low doses of the small molecule to the tooth. They found that the sponge degraded over time and that new dentine replaced it, leading to complete, natural repair.

Dentists currently use man-made fillings or cements, such as calcium and silicon-based products to treat larger cavities and fill holes in teeth. This cement remains in the tooth and can fail to disintegrate, meaning that the normal mineral level of the tooth is never completely restored.

However, scientists believe this new approach could see teeth use their natural ability to repair large cavities rather than using cements or fillings, which are prone to infections and often need replacing.

According to the Oral Health Foundation, a quarter of adults admit they have not visited a dentist in the past two years and more than a quarter of adults only visit their dentist when they have a problem.

Similarly, more than 200,000 residents in care homes are reported to have tooth decay, compared to 40 per cent of people aged over 75 who do not live in a care home.

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