Cavities, also called tooth decay or caries, permanently damage the hard, mineral surface of teeth. Once it reaches the inner soft tissue of the tooth, the pulp, the tooth becomes infected and further issues arise. Stem cells are present in the pulp and are stimulated by damage to differentiate into specialised cells (odontoblasts) that act to replace lost mineral and repair the tooth.
Building on previous research into tooth repair, in a paper published in Scientific Reports, researchers from Kings College London
have revealed how macrophages, specialised cells of the immune system, and stem cells interact following tooth damage to promote repair.
The research was carried out in the Centre for Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology at the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, by researchers Dr Vitor Neves and Dr Val Yianni, both senior members of the Sharpe Research Group. They found that macrophages are required for pulp stem cell activation and appropriate reparative dentine formation.
Moreover, the group showed that by naturally stimulating tooth repair via Wnt/b-catenin signalling stimulation, dentine formation is enhanced due to activation of pulp stem cells and promotion of an anti-inflammatory macrophage response.
These findings demonstrate that by understanding the how the body reacts to damage, it is possible to modulate the host response to improve the dental reparative capacity, potentially increasing the life span of teeth.