WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Never visit the dentists again and eat all the sweet stuff you like. Marvellous!
Scientists in the UK have developed a new Biomaterial that can be inserted into teeth, via a traditional dentists filling, that can repair and regenerate dentin – the hard, bone like material that makes up the majority of yours, and everyone else’s teeth.
Just like regular fillings a dentist injects the new material into the cleaned out tooth then hardens it with UV light. But, and this is where the biomaterial works its magic, once inside the pulp of the tooth it encourages stem cells in the tooth to proliferate and grow into dentin – thereby repairing the cavity once, and for all. Or, at least until the next time you have to visit the dentist because you didn’t listen to their advice about quaffing down all those sweets and sugary drinks. The new material is, after all replacing the holes created by cavities not just with a synthetic biomaterial but, eventually with your very own dentin.
“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,” says lead researcher Adam Celiz, a therapeutic biomaterials researcher from the University of Nottingham.
The technique just won second prize in the materials category of the UK Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition 2016 and is what dentists in the industry refer to as a new form of ‘pulp capping‘.
Pulp capping is a technique dentists use to try and stop dental pulp from dying. Pulp is one of the four major components of teeth, along with enamel, dentin, and cementum.
The surface enamel is the hardest layer, and under that is the second hardest layer, dentin. Dentin is important because it surrounds and connects to the pulp of the tooth, which is made up of living connective tissue and cells called odontoblasts, and found in the middle of your tooth. The pulp is where your blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue are found and form some of the most sensitive, and important areas of the tooth.
Many of our teething problems begin when you get a cavity that eats away your enamel, dentin and cementum – a calcified substance covering the root of a tooth – and exposes the pulp. If dentists don’t get in there fast enough with a protective pulp capping substance – or, if the procedure fails then you’ll be facing an expensive and painful root canal treatment.
Right now, pulp capping materials are usually made of materials such as Calcium Hydroxide or Mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA) and they don’t do anything other than protect, and around 15% of all of these fillings fail quickly with the remainder, as some of you will no doubt be aware, falling out or cracking over time.
That’s where the University of Nottingham’s invention comes in. Their new pulp capping material is designed to stop pulp capping failure by encouraging the growth of more natural dentin to protect it.
“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,” said Coby McDonald.
A filling that reg