Ongoing dental research gives hope the dental drill may soon become a historic relic. In one study reported in Science Translational Medicine, researchers used lasers to help rats regrow dentin, the calcified tissue comprising teeth, Fox News reported. Laser light aimed at a protein in dentin called transforming growth factor beta stimulated dentin stem cells, enabling new growth.
So far, the laser treatment has been tried only on rats whose teeth were drilled to destroy dentin as part of the experiment. The researchers from Harvard University who conducted the study are hoping to conduct human trials in the future, Fox noted.
Laser treatment isn’t the only possible substitute to fillings, crowns, and other unpleasant dentistry being studied.
Research Gone to the Dogs
In a Japanese study reported in July in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, researchers used stem cells for pulp repair. Pulp is soft tissue inside the tooth that can be destroyed when a tooth becomes infected. That’s a problem because pulp is needed for detecting sensation, including heat, cold and pressure, and it contains the stem cells which can regenerate tooth tissue.
According to the Daily Mail, the researchers gave dogs root canals, removing pulp stem cells and treating them with a growth stimulator called granulocyte-colony stimulating factor in a lab. They found the treated cells regenerated sufficient pulp to fill in the root canals and restore the dogs’ teeth. The research has progressed to the clinical trial stage.
Do It Yourself, Tooth!
Another approach undergoing clinical trials is tricking the teeth with an amino acid toothpaste containing a compound identified as P 11-4 which mimics the natural tooth repair process. When applied to teeth, the toothpaste forms a gelatinous scaffold which attracts calcium, Popular Science explained. This allows the diseased tooth to repair itself.
There’s a catch: a dentist would still have to clean out the decay before the toothpaste was applied. The Leeds Dental Institute, which conducted the study, says its technique has been successful in a small human trial.
Like Water, Like Teeth?
Taking a tip from the water purification process, a Queen’s University research team developed a process for applying ozone to diseased teeth. Like it does in the water purification process, the ozone kills bacteria in teeth, the Daily Mail said. Once the bacteria is gone, the tooth repairs itself by absorbing minerals from saliva to strengthen the tooth surface. Dental ozone therapy has been available in Europe for several years and has recently become available in the United States.