Innovative Dental Filling Regenerates Teeth

The only way to treat potentially dangerous pulp infections has been the painful and cumbersome root canal. This is one of the most unpleasant procedures in dental medicine, but it may soon become a thing of the past thanks to a major breakthrough made by researchers at the University of Nottingham, England, in association with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, United States. Together they developed a revolutionary method that enables teeth regeneration. It employs stem cells to stimulate the growth of dentin — the tissue found between the outer layer of enamel and the inner pulp that makes up most of each tooth.

Breakthrough in endodontic obturation

According to Dr. Adam Celiz from the University of Nottingham, and member of the team of scientists who developed the new breakthrough, existing dental fillings are harmful to the pulp tissue inside the tooth. The usual treatment for dental pulp diseases or injuries is to open the root canal to remove the infected tissues, and subsequently obturate it with gutta-percha. This process is known as root canal therapy (or endodontic therapy).

The new filling could render this process obsolete. The “synthetic biomaterial” closes and protects the canal previously opened in the tooth while stimulating cellular growth to regenerate the damaged tissue. It’s harmless to the delicate dental pulp, so it is not necessary to remove the living tissue prior to its application. People could even apply it by themselves without having to visit the dentist. This revolutionary treatment won a prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry in London, and scientists hope to get enough funding to make it feasible for widespread use.

Another study into dental regeneration

Prior to this breakthrough, scientists at the Harvard University (led by David J. Mooney from the Wyss Institute) had successfully explored low-level laser therapy as a method to promote the regeneration of teeth in 2014. They were able to stimulate the stem cells in rat teeth to form new dentin tissue. The laser also worked with human teeth samples, and scientists hope to try it on people. However, further research is necessary to enable the regeneration of whole teeth. Besides dentin, human teeth consist of a soft dental pulp, the outer enamel layer, and cementum.

Revolutionizing dentistry

Contrary to popular belief, teeth aren’t made of bone and do not regenerate naturally. Tooth decay can be delayed with proper dental care, but it is an inevitable and irreversible process. By old age, most people experience some form of tooth decay. The capability to regenerate teeth could not only revolutionize endodontic practices, but also curb the effects of aging on dental health.