No one likes needing to receive periodontal gum grafts in Portland or anywhere else. Why would they? Periodontal care can cost a lot of money, scheduling an appointment can feel intimidating if major restoration is required, and the treatment itself can cause some discomfort.
The need for some types of invasive dental care may one day become as obsolete as the rotary phone or the dialup modem if the results of a new study indicates what the future of dentistry may hold. In England, a team of researchers from King’s College in London has discovered a new pain- and stress-free way to patch holes and other forms of decay in teeth. Based on their findings, low doses of the small molecule inhibitor glycogen kinase encourages the creation of new dentin, the calcified tissue that makes up our teeth.
In clinical trials, researchers soaked biodegradable sponges with the drugs, including Tideglusib (currently a part of trials designed to treat Alzheimer’s), were placed into holes in the teeth of mice. The teeth were then sealed with a cement made from glass ionomer, the same material used in composite fillings. Over the next four to six weeks, new dentin structures formed in place of the sponges, creating what researchers described as “a complete, effective repair.”
The space previously occupied by the sponge becomes full of minerals as the dentine regenerates. This regeneration restores the tooth back to health and lowers the risk that the tooth structure will fail in the future.
While the field of regenerative medicine remains relatively new, researchers involved in the study believe a breakthrough of this important, but relatively simple, nature could find its way into dental offices within the next five years.
This could mean that a new, highly durable alternative to dental fillings could be available before you know it. Or maybe not.
Others in the field believe that such promises of a filling free future may be just a bit premature. They view the jump from clinical trials on mice to human subjects as far bigger than what researchers at King’s College would necessarily leave us to believe.
While this study has found a way to regenerate dentin, the underlying structure of our teeth, the research mice did not grow back tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of our teeth. Dentin is neither as hard or as durable as enamel. While regenerating dentin does offer exciting new possibilities in dentistry, repairing large cavities in a patient’s teeth requires a harder, more resilient substance other than just dentin. Without enamel to provide additional structure and support, teeth damaged by large cavities wouldn’t have enough structural strength to survive the rigors of chewing if only supported by new dentin growth.
While this places a slight damper on the discovery by King’s College researchers, this recent breakthrough still offers plenty of excitement. A future free of periodontal gum grafts in Portland may have not yet arrived, but further breakthroughs in regenerative medicine could dramatically alter the way we receive dental care in not too distant future.