Scientists have invented a product that can encourage the regrowth of tooth enamel, which means we may finally have a revolutionary way to treat tooth decay.
In 2018, researchers at the University of Washington announced the development of a treatment using peptides – short chains of amino acids, linked by peptide bonds, which are not long enough to be considered proteins. complete.
When applied to dental lesions created artificially in the laboratory, the product remineralizes the tooth enamel, effectively “healing” the lesion.
“Peptide-guided remineralization is a healthy alternative to current dental care,” said materials scientist Mehmet Sarikaya.
Tooth enamel is produced by a type of cell called an ameloblast; these secrete the proteins that form the enamel while the tooth is still in the gum.
Unfortunately, once the process of tooth enamel formation is complete and the tooth has emerged, our ameloblasts die. But we continue to lose enamel throughout our lives.
“Bacteria metabolize sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates in oral environments and the acid, as a byproduct, will demineralize tooth enamel,” said dental researcher Sami Dogan.
But once there is a visible cavity on the tooth, it needs to be treated by a dentist – which usually means drilling and filling the hole with a dental filling.
To develop their new treatment, the team turned to one of the proteins produced by ameloblasts. Called amelogenins, these proteins play a role key role in the regulation of tooth enamel formation.
The team designed peptides based on this protein and created a treatment with the peptide as the active ingredient.
They applied it to dental lesions in the lab and found that it helped form a new mineralized layer in the demineralized areas, integrating it with the enamel below.
They also treated similar lesions with fluoride, but only the peptide treatment resulted in the remineralization of a relatively thick layer – resembling the structure of healthy enamel.
For the next steps in bringing this product into the clinic, we will need more testing to see how the peptide solution works in real patients and if the results are as strong as those in the lab.
And for deep cavities that reach the dentin layer below the enamel, a filling would still be necessary.
But the researchers think their product could still be sold as part of a daily preventative dental care routine, in the form of a toothpaste or gel, to help minimize costly trips to the dentist for cavities. less deep.
“The peptide-based formulations will be simple and would be implemented in over-the-counter or clinical products,” Sarikaya said.
The team published their research in the journal ACS Sciences and engineering of biomaterials.
A version of this article originally appeared in April 2018.