Demineralization in dentinal caries and erosion exposes dentine organic matrix. This exposed matrix, containing type I collagen and non-collagenous proteins, is then degraded by host collagenolytic enzymes, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and cysteine cathepsins. The knowledge of the identities and function of these enzymes in dentine has accumulated only within the last 15 years, but has already formed a field of research called ‘dentine degradomics'. This research has demonstrated the role of endogenous collagenolytic enzymes in caries and erosion development. In demineralized dentine, the enzymes degrade triple-helical collagen molecules, leading to the gradual loss of collagen matrix. Even before that, they can cleave off the terminal non-helical ends of collagen molecules called telopeptides, leading to the structural changes at the intramolecular gap areas, which may affect or even prevent intrafibrillar remineralization, which is considered essential in restoring the dentine's mechanical properties. They may also cause the loss of non-collagenous proteins that could serve as nucleation sites for remineralization. Here we review the findings demonstrating that inhibition of salivary or dentine endogenous MMPs and cysteine cathepsins may provide preventive means against the progression of caries or erosion. Furthermore, we also suggest the future directions for the new experimental preventive research to gain more knowledge of the enzymes and their function during and after dentine demineralization, and the pathways to find the clinically acceptable means to prevent the functional activity of these enzymes.
© 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel