With around 47% of children under the age of 12 having tooth decay, the pressure for parents to get their kids to brush their teeth is ever increasing. Now however, thanks to new research, dealing with tooth cavities may be a thing of the past, as scientists have discovered a totally new way to deal with decay.
Researcher Praveen Arany, who works at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in Maryland, has only tested this new technique on rats, but hopes to perform trials on humans in the very near future.
The technique involves firing a laser beam at the decaying area and this prompts the tooth to start to repair itself. Researchers found that by blasting an intense beam of light from a laser beam activated certain chemical in the tooth that then worked to ‘wake up’ stem cells from within the inside of the tooth. These stem cells, once activated, then produced new dentine; this is the substance of teeth that decay attacks.
The treatment focuses on a natural protein called transforming growth factor beta, or TGF-beta. The researchers discovered that this growth factor changed radically when a focused beam of light was directed onto it. Further tests revealed that when this TGF-beta was hit with a beam of light, the stem cells already present within the dentin were stimulated to grow.
David Mooney, the Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard University, told FoxNews.com: “Once [TGF-beta] is activated by the laser, it can bind to stem cells resident in the tissue, and then it induces those stem cells to differentiate so they can proliferate and reform dentin.”
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, but researchers advised that the treatment may not suit all tooth decay and in some cases traditional fillings would still be required. Best of all however, is that the technique is cost effective, meaning that is could be available to everyone. Dr Dusko Ilic, Senior Lecturer in Stem Cell Science, King’s College London, said: “The approach seems to be pretty straightforward and although it sounds high tech, the technology is not prohibitively expensive, quite contrary, it is low cost. Since in teeth this process appears to enhance healing, I would expect to see clinical trials in humans very soon.”
Professor Chris Mason, who works in the field of regenerative medicine at University College London, said: “I think it would be popular with patients because it would be low-cost and rapid and involve minimal surgery. It would also be popular with the health care providers who have to foot the bill.” He did advise however that although this new treatment is groundbreaking and could make a huge difference to the medical industry, it is the regrowing of enamel, the hardest part of the tooth, which might prove to be more difficult. He added: “It’s a great start but ultimately you’d want to have enamel too.”
For more information check out the full interview at Fox News.