A new material could positively impact millions of dental patients by allowing dental fillings that help heal teeth when they are injured from dental disease or dental surgery.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have developed therapeutic synthetic, light-curable, biomaterials for dental treatments that support native dental stem cells inside teeth to repair and regenerate dentin.
Like regular fillings, the new material is injected into the tooth then cured with UV light. Once inside the pulp of the tooth, however, it spurs stem cells to spread and grow into dentin.
Dr Adam Celiz, Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham, explained:
“Existing dental fillings are toxic to cells and are therefore incompatible with pulp tissue inside the tooth. In cases of dental pulp disease and injury a root canal is typically performed to remove the infected tissues.
We have designed synthetic biomaterials that can be used similarly to dental fillings but can be placed in direct contact with pulp tissue to stimulate the native stem cell population for repair and regeneration of pulp tissue and the surrounding dentin. Our approach has great promise to impact the dental field and this prize provides a great platform to develop this technology further with industrial partners.”
The research has not gone unnoticed; it won second prize in the materials category of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition 2016.
Writing in Popular Science, Coby McDonald fills in some of the details:
“In in vitro testing, the fillings stimulated the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells into dentin, the bony tissue that forms the bulk of the tooth under the white enamel.
The researchers believe that if used in a damaged tooth, those stem cells can repair the kind of damage that often comes from the installation of a filling. In essence, the biomaterial filling would allow the tooth to heal itself.”
The research has not as of now been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Until more information comes out about just how it works, and how much it will cost, it looks like we will all still be getting our fillings the old-fashioned way.
Photo: Niels Heidenreich/Flickr