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Self-regenerating teeth? – Soon maybe not so utopian anymore!

Anyone who has dental problems or pain goes to the dentist. Or to an orthodontist, depends on who has more time or can be reached better – the main thing is that the pain disappears as quickly as possible. As we now know, toothache is one of the most unpleasant and unbearable types of pain you can have, along with ear pain. In most cases – i.e. almost all cases – only a professional intervention by a dentist or orthodontist can help.

However, there are a few new stars in the research sky: in the form of potential discoveries that teeth may even be able to regenerate themselves. – You may have noticed it yourself when reading the last sentence: That's a lot of conjunctives. Research on this topic is still in the starting blocks, so to speak. Let's take a closer look at this topic.

Stem cells provide new solutions

The first basic foundations for the new theses were developed by the Technical University (TU) of Dresden. It was discovered there, more by chance actually, that there is a new type of stem cell that colonises in the front teeth of mice.

Stem cells are essential for the formation of new cell tissue. Without them, bleeding wounds, for example, could not heal again. For example, they can specialise in specific cell types, as happened in the case of the mice, where they accumulate as mesenchymal stromal cells in the front teeth. There they contribute significantly to the formation of dentin, the hard tissue that lies beneath the enamel of each tooth.

As soon as these stem cells are activated, they migrate through the tooth during infections and send a signal to the so-called mother cells of the tissue. Via a protein gene, DLK1, the stem cells can even control the number of cells that are newly produced. For this reason, as the team of researchers at the TU Dresden found, the gene must be present. Without it, the whole process is not possible at all.

The researchers also found that the DLK1 gene can also contribute to improving the activation of stem cells and the generation of tissue in the wound healing process. With regard to the regeneration of damaged teeth, this is an outstanding discovery; for example, caries or injuries to the teeth could be cured by the body itself.

The idea behind it is not new

As current as the studies and the discoveries are, the idea that teeth can in principle heal themselves is not new. For example, scientists at King's College in London conducted tests on a drug as early as 2017, which should result in exactly this: To improve the self-healing process of teeth. What is somewhat surprising about this is the fact that this drug, Tideglusib, was originally used in Alzheimer studies.

The researchers in London also took mouse teeth for the initial tests and drilled small holes into which they stuffed little sponges soaked with Tideglusib. What they found was that the stem cells in the tooth were stimulated by Tideglusib and that these (in the same sequence as in the mice in Dresden 2019) then support the ability of self-healing teeth - and that completely without fillings made of cement, gold, amalgam or plastic. After a few weeks, the stem cells in the mouse teeth succeeded in forming enough dentin to close the holes again without external help.

The advantage of this is above all in medical-biological terms: If the tooth can heal itself, this is a much healthier and safer way than external treatment. This also ensures the vitality of the tooth. During a root canal treatment, on the other hand, the tooth is usually killed irreversibly, the root is removed and sealed with a filling or an implant.

Conclusion: Further research is needed

Although the drug Tideglusib is already considered harmless for humans, as it is also suitable for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, further tests have to be carried out before it can really be clearly stated that its application can also be carried out successfully and without risk. If the tests are positive, however, it would be relatively revolutionary for today's dentistry, would relieve the workload of countless doctors and give many patients the opportunity to cure their problems in a healthy way.

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