Researchers take important step towards development of biological dental enamel

There is no natural alternative to synthetic filling materials, but a new 3D model with human dental stem cells could change this in the future. The results of the research led by Prof. Hugo Vankelecom and Prof. Annelies Bronckaers have been published in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences.

The team led by Prof. Vankelecom developed a 3D research model with stem cells from the dental follicle, a membranous tissue surrounding unerupted human teeth.

Prof. Vankelecom said: “By using dental stem cells, we can develop other dental cells with this model, such as ameloblasts that are responsible for enamel formation”.

Each day, our teeth are exposed to acids and sugars from food that can cause damage to our enamel. Enamel cannot regenerate, which makes an intervention by the dentist necessary.

Doctoral student Lara Hemeryck explained: “In our new model, we have managed to turn dental stem cells into ameloblasts that produce enamel components, which can eventually lead to biological enamel. That enamel could be used as a natural filling material to repair dental enamel. The advantage is that in this way, the physiology and function of the dental tissue is repaired naturally, while this is not the case for synthetic materials. Furthermore, there would be less risk of tooth necrosis, which can occur at the contact surface when using synthetic materials”.

Not only would dentists be able to help their patients with this biological filling material, the 3D cell model could have applications in other sectors as well. For example, it could help the food industry to examine the effect of particular food products on dental enamel, or toothpaste manufacturers to optimise protection and care.