Scientists Found A Drug That Can Regrow Teeth

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
Getting a cavity is something that most people will face once or twice and fear for most of their lives. There are few things scarier than the sound of that dentist's drill and the inevitable throbbing pain that comes with getting a filling. But researchers at King's College London have found something that might just relieve some of that dental anxiety. Professor Paul Sharpe and his team found that tideglusib, a drug that's actually being used in Alzheimer's research, can actually aid in the tooth's natural repair process, meaning that fillings might just be a thing of the past.

“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,” Sharpe told The Guardian after the findings were published in Nature. “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.”

Tideglusib works by activating stem cells that are at the pulpy center of each tooth. Your teeth already have the ability to repair themselves, but they generally regenerate cells below the enamel. Cavities occur in the enamel itself, so your body can't quite repair them. Tideglusib works by controlling the enzyme GSK-3, which keeps the repair process below the surface. By restricting GSK-3, the tooth's repair mechanism is enhanced and works all the way out to the enamel.

Sharpe showed the regeneration when he tested the drug on mice. Instead of filling cavities with porcelain, silver, gold, or other more common materials, researchers inserted a sponge soaked with tideglusib. Gradually, the teeth rebuilt themselves. The sponge degraded over time and was replaced by dentine.

The process is similar to conventional fillings, so that scary drill isn't completely obsolete. “Sorry, you’re still going to have the drill, you can’t get away from that, I’m afraid,” Sharpe added.

The researchers have moved to testing the procedure on rats, whose teeth are four times larger than mice, and hope to move to humans later this year.
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