Now scientists have shown that the natural process can be enhanced using an Alzheimer’s drug, allowing the tooth’s own cells to rebuild cavities extending from the surface to the root.
In the trial, in mice, the team showed that when defects were filled with a biodegradable sponge soaked in the drug, the tooth was gradually able to rebuild itself.
Restoring the tooth’s original dentine structure is preferable because dental cements used in conventional fillings weaken the tooth, leave it prone to future infections – and inevitably erode or detach.
“Fillings work fine, but if the tooth can repair itself, surely the best way. You’re restoring all the vitality of the tooth.”
Previous work by the team has shown that the drug stimulates stem cells in the centre of the tooth, triggering them to develop into odontoblasts and boosting the production of dentine, allowing larger defects to be reversed.
In the study, published in Scientific Reports, the scientists drilled holes into the teeth of mice, inserted a biodegradable collagen sponge soaked in the drug and sealed the tooth with a dental adhesive.
The dental preparation of the tooth would be almost identical to that required for conventional fillings, according to the scientists.