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Aspirin may be a cost-effective alternative to fillings

Published on 08/09/17 at 09:59am

Researchers from Queen University, Belfast, have discovered that aspirin may be able to reverse the effects of tooth decay. In tests in the laboratory, studies found that aspirin was able to stimulate stem cells in the teeth in order to repair the dentine lost due to tooth decay.

The solution would be desirable for a number of reasons, not least because aspirin is available for as little as 1p per pill and could help reduce the 7 million fillings that are provided by the NHS every year in England.

Teeth are able to repair themselves but only slowly and only thin areas of dentine – they are not able to repair tooth decay once damage forms into larger cavities. Once a cavity is present, the only recourse is to clear the decay and fill the gap with a filling. However, fillings often need to be replaced in a lifetime and are of synthetic structure not resembling the natural tooth structure.

The principal investigator Dr El Karim said: “There is huge potential to change our approach to one of the biggest dental challenges we face. Our initial research findings in the laboratory suggest that the use of aspirin, a drug already licensed for human use, could offer an immediate innovative solution enabling our teeth to repair themselves.

He continued, “Our next step will be to develop an appropriate delivery system to test the drug efficacy in a clinical trial. This novel approach could not only increase the long-term survival of teeth but could also result in huge savings for the NHS and other healthcare systems worldwide.”

Aspirin was chosen as the drug of choice after researchers had honed in on its ability to create a genetic signature associated with the generation of dentine. The scientists then tested their theory by applying aspirin to stem cells in petri dishes – finding genetic and material evidence that it had stimulated growth of dentine.

The next step will be to determine how aspirin can be applied to teeth, with a slow and continual release that would not be washed away every day activities. Once this was developed, it could be taken into clinical trials. A major bonus regarding the use of aspirin is that clinical safety is already established, meaning that any potential treatment could move from the clinic to dentists quickly.

Ben Hargreaves

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