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Belfast scientists say aspirin could reverse tooth decay

From BBC - September 7, 2017

Aspirin could reverse the effects of tooth decay and could lead to fewer fillings being needed in the future, researchers in Belfast have said.

Initial research at Queen's University has found aspirin stimulates stem cells in teeth, enhancing tooth regeneration.

Tooth decay, the most common dental disease, leads to the inflammation of the tooth nerve, causing toothache.

The British Dental Association reported in 2016 that 72% of 15-year-olds in Northern Ireland have dental decay.

That figure compared to 44% in England and 63% in Wales.

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a drug that has been used for many years as a painkiller. It has an anti-inflammatory action, and is used to relieve headache, menstrual pain and muscle aches. It costs one penny a tablet.

Teeth naturally have limited regenerative abilities. They can produce a thin band of dentine - the layer just below the enamel - if the inner dental pulp becomes exposed, but this cannot repair a large cavity.

Current treatment for tooth decay involves fillings, which may need to be replaced many times during the lifetime of the tooth.

Prof Ikhlas El Karim is a senior lecturer in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen's University Belfast.

Her research focuses on dental stem cellsfound in teeth and how dentists can enhance their ability to regenerate and repair damaged teeth, removing the need for fillings.

The research findings, to be presented on Thursday at the British Society for Oral and Dental Research annual conference, show that aspirin can enhance the function of those stem cells, thus helping self-repair by regenerating lost tooth structure.

"Ideally, what we are really reporting here is that we are hoping to be able to develop a therapy [so] that the teeth could repair themselves," she said.

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