Cells and extracellular matrices of dentin and pulp: A biological basis for repair and tissue engineering

MD Goldberg, Anthony Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

356 Citations (Scopus)


Odontoblasts produce most of the extracellular matrix (ECM) components found in dentin and implicated in dentin mineralization. Major differences in the pulp ECM explain why pulp is normally a non-mineralized tissue. In vitro or in vivo, some dentin ECM molecules act as crystal nucleators and contribute to crystal growth, whereas others are mineralization inhibitors. After treatment of caries lesions of moderate progression, odontoblasts and cells from the sub-odontoblastic Hohl's layer are implicated in the formation of reactionary dentin. Healing of deeper lesions in contact with the pulp results in the formation of reparative dentin by pulp cells. The response to direct pulp-capping with materials such as calcium hydroxide is the formation of a dentinal bridge, resulting from the recruitment and proliferation of undifferentiated cells, which may be either stem cells or dedifferentiated and transdifferentiated mature cells. Once differentiated, the cells synthesize a matrix that undergoes mineralization. Animal models have been used to test the capacity of potentially bioactive molecules to promote pulp repair following their implantation into the pulp. ECM molecules induce either the formation of dentinal bridges or large areas of mineralization in the coronal pulp. They may also stimulate the total closure of the pulp in the root canal. In conclusion, some molecules found in dentin extracellular matrix may have potential in dental therapy as bioactive agents for pulp repair or tissue engineering.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalCritical Reviews in Oral Biology & Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • tissue engineering
  • odontoblasts
  • dentin
  • pulp
  • bioactive molecules


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