Alzheimer’s Drug may be sinking it’s teeth into dental care!
Needless to say, tooth aches have plagued humans for years, but a recent discovery may soon sink it’s teeth into this age old problem.
Scientists have been looking for ways to repair rotten teeth for years. Now it seems that a team of researchers at Kings College in London may have found a way to regenerate tooth dentin using a drug that is usually used to treat people with Alzheimer’s.
The outer layer of the tooth, called enamel, is the hardest substance in the human body. It is very densely calcified and contains no stem cells. Currently, the only way to repair enamel is to hope that a person’s mineral-rich saliva can reverse the very early stages of enamel demineralization cause by bacterial acids.
There is always a daily battle during and after meals between the mouth bacteria and our mineral-rich saliva. Simply put, the bacteria metabolize the sugars we eat and create a erosive acid that can dissolve and break open enamel rods allowing minerals to leech out. Our saliva plays a reparative role by then depositing minerals into this surface damage to try to harden the weakened area of the tooth. This repair process takes upwards of 4-5 hours in between meals which is why frequent eating/snacking interferes with our saliva’s reparative ability. Unfortunately, when the amount of demineralization far outweighs the restorative work of saliva and the damage is deep enough, repair is irreversible and the tooth must be cleaned out and filled with a dental material.
However, researchers at Kings College were concerning themselves with very large areas of decay – cavities that ate through the enamel and into the next tissue called dentin. Dentin is roughly 50% less harder (calcified) than enamel, but unlike enamel, it is capable of some regeneration to protect the pulp. Just like bone, dentin is able to acquire more calcified tissue in the event of repair. We call this secondary or reparative dentin and the stem cells needed to produce extra dentin comes from the pulp. That repair is limited, however.
Dentistry already has dental products that attempt to soothe and protect the more vulnerable pulpal tissue from deep tooth decay, but it can only do so much, especially if the decay is very close or has reached into the pulp. What these scientists have done essentially is found a more natural way for dentin to repair itself. Using a biodegradable collagen sponge soaked with the Alzheimer’s drug called “tideglusib”, they placed it on the dentin where the decay had reached the pulp.
Essentially, Tideglusib switches off an enzyme called GSK-3, which is known to prevent dentin formation from continuing. The testing was done using mice, but the results were very promising. Not only did their body defence systems begins growing natural dentinal tissue, but testing showed the damaged tissue replaced itself in as little as six weeks – much more quickly that the body’s current natural ability. And, unlike the dental materials currently used in dentistry that remain after placement, the sponge eventually dissolves over time after the new dentin replaces it.
A Great Step Forward
This discovery is exciting because, not only do we, as dentists, try to repair decayed teeth, we try to stop it in it’s tracks before it reaches the pulpal tissue. Once the pulp chamber is exposed to the oral environment, we use dental materials designed to cap the exposure and encourage the growth of dentinal stem cells to preserve the health of the pulp, but it’s success rate is not what we’d like it to be.
Many factors play into the repair process and if the body does not cooperate and form a sufficient layer of dentin to seal the pulp, then the vitality of the pulpal tissue will become compromised and eventually begin to rot. Once this happens root canal treatment is necessary to save the tooth from extraction. In addition, tideglusid is not a new pharmaceutical. It has undergone testing and is already being used as a drug for patients with Alzheimer’s.
“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.”
Professor Paul Sharpe, lead author of the study
Dental Institute of King’s College, London UK
At Your Smile Dental, we know that, “Not all that glitters is Gold”, but with more than 30 years of dental experience, we also know that many of the technologies we use today in dentistry were the impossible dreams of yesterday. The dentin is a very important protective layer between the enamel and the vital centre of the tooth. Once decay gets into this layer, it can advance quickly. Finding a way to regenerate this tissue faster, before it poses a threat to the nerve, will be a great step forward in the treatment of dental disease.
It may not be the end of fillings since enamel cannot grow back, but we’re happy to stick around a little longer to help you with all of your dental care needs!