Stem cells hold significant promise for dental treatments, and substantial research in recent years has focused on the potential for coaxing new teeth from stem cells.
Researchers believe stem cells could generate healthy teeth that grow similarly to our natural teeth, and provide an alternative to dental implants, dentures and other solutions for missing teeth. Scientists, however, recently made a major breakthrough in dental-centric stem cell research by taking a different approach.
Tooth Decay and the Damage Done
For centuries, dentists generally believed that portions of teeth damaged by cavities were beyond hope. Drilling the tooth, removing the decayed area, and filling the tooth was the standard practice.
Thanks to extensive scientific research and evolving dental technology, there are more conservative—and comfortable—options available today. Although root canals are sometimes necessary for teeth with extensive decay, treatments like composite dental fillings can help patients save their teeth and preserve bite function.
While modern cavity treatments such as composite fillings are effective, they don’t quite measure up to the durability and functionality of healthy, natural teeth. So what if our teeth could repair themselves?
That was the question a team of scientists led by Adam Celiz and Kyle Vining asked. And the answer they came up with earned them an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The research team developed a synthetic material that promotes dental stem cells to repair damage. The compound stimulates stem cells to regenerate pulp tissue and the bony substance known as dentin, according to a Washington Post article on the research.
The biomaterial is placed much like a modern filling; it is injected into the affected tooth and hardened with a UV light. Inside the tooth, the material spurs the stem cells into action and promotes the formation of new dental pulp and dentin.
Stem Cells and Future Dental Treatment
While the research is promising, extensive clinical trials need to be conducted before the process would be widely available as a treatment. One of the interesting things about the development of this material is that the scientists targeted existing dental stem cells.
Most research into dental applications for stem cells focuses on cells from other parts of the body, or from other animals, to grow tooth-like substances. Ongoing studies at Tufts University are exploring methods to grow new teeth and bone from aptly nicknamed “universal cells,” in this case dental stem cells scientists can coax into varying types of tissue.
University of Southern California researchers last year turned to dental stem cells in rodents, which can perpetually regenerate the structure of their front teeth. Humans share similar cells in our molars, but those cells go dormant after the molar crowns form. Scientists are searching for a way to reactivate those stem cells, which could pave the way for natural tooth restorations.
Austin cosmetic dentist Dr. Dan Matthews is dedicated to helping patients maintain beautiful, healthy smiles for life. To learn more about our personalized cosmetic and restorative dentistry services or schedule an appointment, please call our Bee Cave Road office today at 512-452-2273.