Animal Models a Game-Changer for the Dental Field
Biomedical research is an essential component of virtually every aspect of medicine, but did you know that it’s helping make some pretty significant strides in the dental field? Studies using mice, rats and other animals have led to treatments for diseases that affect many of us. Procedures and discoveries for oral cancer, gum diseases like gingivitis, dental implants, and everyday procedures that occur while you are in the chair at the dentist’s office have been developed using animal models.
Perhaps the most annoying dental issue for many people is the incidence of cavities, damage within a tooth caused by bacteria. Cavities are usually treated by removing the decayed portion of the tooth and “filling” it with substances like gold, silver, an amalgam of various metals, or a composite resin. This procedure, as most would agree, can often be painful, burdensome and expensive depending on the size and location of the cavity. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 91% of Americans over the age of 20 experience a cavity at least once during their lifetime.
However, an exciting new study recently reported by the Guardian could someday result in fillings being unnecessary. This study has helped scientists to develop a therapy that promotes repair and rebuilding of the cells within teeth. When a sponge was soaked in a drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and then inserted into the teeth of mice infected with cavities, the tooth material began to regenerate. While the therapy showed great success for tooth regeneration within mouse models, more research is required before the results can be applied to humans, since cavities in humans are much larger. If this therapy is successful in humans, the need for fillings could someday be eliminated—a very welcome concept for the many people who dread trips to the dentist to have cavities filled.
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