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Regenerating Teeth with Dental Resin

Study Shows Promise for the Future

In 2016, dentists at Harvard University and the University of Nottingham developed a material for fillings that stimulated the tooth’s own stem cells. Besides filling the cavity in the tooth, the material also stimulated the tooth’s own cells to fix itself. Unfortunately, this material is yet to reach the market for use in dental practices. Nevertheless, research continues into this novel way of treating cavities. One of the latest studies uses a common diabetes drug, metformin, mixes it into a dental resin used for filling cavities, and studies the effect on dental tissue growth.

Why Use Metformin for Cavities?

Your dental tissues are able to regrow to a certain extent. The problem with cavities is that they’re gaping holes in your tooth! Once a hole perforates the enamel and/or the dentin, a tooth cannot repair itself fast enough. That leaves the dental tissues inside your tooth vulnerable to infection while you eat and breathe. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to protect your tooth pulp from the outside world with a filling.

Sadly, over time some fillings need replacement. The material can wear out or the cavity can get larger, leaving gaps between the filling and the tooth. Oral bacteria quickly exploit any gaps between your tooth and the filling material. If something in the filling could stimulate the dental tissues to regrow, the filling would be more secure, or maybe not even necessary after a period of time. That is why scientists are investigating the possibilities of impregnating dental filling material with substances that stimulate dental stem cells.

One of these substances could be metformin. One advantage of this drug is that millions of people use it daily as a treatment for their type 2 diabetes. Therefore, its safety is well demonstrated. Besides treating diabetes, another effect that metformin has is to stimulate dental pulp stem cells to become odontoblasts — cells that regenerate dental tissue. This doesn’t mean that taking metformin for your diabetes will prevent you from getting cavities! But researchers in Baltimore, Maryland and Nanjing and Chengdu, China did study how metformin would perform in the lab if added to common dental resins and then exposed to dental tissues.

How Did Metformin Perform in the Lab?

The researchers first combined common dental resin for filling cavities with 20% metformin. Then they made sure that the resin would actually release the metformin over time. Once that was confirmed, they then obtained dental tissues from teeth removed as part of orthodontic procedures. (No one had to sacrifice their teeth for this study!) The metformin-filled resins were then placed in cultures containing the dental tissues.

The study confirmed that the metformin did release from the resin over time. It also did not affect the viability of the dental tissues — exposure to the metformin did not harm the dental pulp stem cells. To the contrary, cultures with dental resin containing metformin showed an increase in tissue growth of seven to nine times over the growth in cultures containing plain dental resin.

What Do These Dental Resin Studies Mean for Me?

Today your cavities are still just filled with plain dental resin — a safe, practical, and cosmetic solution for protecting teeth damaged by tooth decay. But this and other studies along the same lines demonstrate that there are substances that are safe for dental tissues that can also stimulate your teeth to regenerate themselves! The Yuba City Dental Group is highly encouraged by these findings and looks forward to implementing such medicinal dental resins once they become available. In the meantime, visit us every six months to make sure that your teeth stay free from tooth decay! Request your dental exam today by phone or online!

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