Ingeniously Simple Dental Treatment Could Heal Tooth Cavities Without Any Fillings

Scientists have created a product that encourages tooth enamel to grow back. This could be a revolutionary way to treat dental cavities. Researchers at the University of Washington have announced the creation of a treatment using peptides. These are short chains of amino acid linked by peptide bonds. They can't be considered full proteins, but they can be used as a treatment. The product can be applied to dental lesions that have been artificially created in a laboratory setting and remineralizes tooth enamel. This "heals" the lesion. Mehmet Sarikaya, a materials scientist, stated that "remineralization guided with peptides" is an alternative to current dental care. An ameloblast is a cell that produces tooth enamel. It secretes the proteins necessary to form enamel while the tooth remains in its natural environment. Our ameloblasts cease functioning once the process of creating tooth enamel has been completed and the tooth is visible. However, enamel loss continues throughout one's life. Sami Dogan, a dentist researcher, said that bacteria can metabolize sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates in oral environments. Acid, as a byproduct, will demineralize dental enamel. Our teeth can be remineralized to a limited extent with the help saliva, fluoride toothpaste, and water additives. Once a visible cavity has formed on a tooth, it must be addressed by a dentist. This usually involves drilling and filling the hole with a dental crown. The team used one of the ameloblast proteins to develop their new treatment. These proteins, called amelogenins play an important role in the regulation of tooth enamel formation. The team created peptides that were based on the protein and developed a treatment using the peptide to act as an active ingredient. It was applied to dental lesions in a laboratory setting. They found it helped to form a new mineralized coating to the desineralized areas and integrated it with the enamel beneath. (ACS Publications). Similar lesions were also treated with fluoride. However, only the peptide treatment was able to remineralize a thick layer that resembles healthy enamel. We will need to conduct more clinical trials to determine if this product is safe to use in clinic. A filling is still necessary for deep cavities, which can reach the dentine layer beneath the enamel. Researchers believe that the product could still be used in preventative tooth care, such as a toothpaste or gel. This would help to reduce costly trips to the dentist to treat shallower cavities. Sarikaya stated that peptidide-enabled formulations would be easy to use in clinical or over-the-counter products. Their research was published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering. This article was first published in April 2018.

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