In our last post on dental implants we shared how we use Platelet Rich Fibrin (PRF) as an innovative technique to aid healing and bone regeneration after oral surgery. In an age of technology, we are only at the cusp of a medical science revolution, with new techniques and devices poised to change dentistry forever.
Dental Implants and Stem Cells
One particular area that has our attention is Regenerative Endodontics. There are many groups around the world working to find a successful approach to regrow teeth using our own bio-material (and in some far out cases, using our own urine!). The use of stem cells in combination with lasers is a recent example of the new era in dental therapy, which could significantly alter how we approach dental implants.
A Havard-led team of scientists has recently used a low-powered laser to stimulate dental stem cells to produce dentin, the hard tissue that makes up the core of each tooth.
Stem cell therapy has always been at the vanguard of medical research because of their ability to repair or replace different types of cells in the body. So now imagine the ability to regenerate tissue that has receded due to dentures, periodontal disease or a missing tooth.
Here’s an excerpt from an excellent Business Insider article covering the break-through:
“The first step for researchers was to drill holes in two rat molars, exposing the interior of the tooth underneath. They exposed dentin, … then, they lit up the dentin using a low-powered laser, trying to get the stem cells there to kick into action and start producing more dentin to replace the damaged area. One molar received the laser treatment, the other did not.
Twelve weeks later, the researchers observed that the dentin in the molar that received treatment was growing again — the tooth was growing back. (The results were the same when they did the experiment again in mice.)
The researchers then tested the same technique on various mammal cells under a microscope. Each time, the laser light caused certain oxygen-containing molecules to appear. Those molecules then caused stem cells to begin their conversion into cells producing dentin, tooth tissue. This showed researchers how lasers can cause tissue to regenerate, which they say had never been seen before.
When tested with human dental stem cells, the effects were similar. The lasers activated the stem cells, which can become many different types of cells, and specifically caused them to start forming dentin.”
This new approach still requires years of clinical testing and research before therapy is ready for the general public, but this advance does have significant implications for the future of dental implants.
Improving conditions for Dental Implants
The integrity of the jawbone and surrounding tissue is always a critical factor in the success of dental implants. It is highly conceivable that a similar stem cell therapy can be designed one day to return bone and gum tissue to a more healthy state. Given the successes of Harvard and other scientists so far, bio-engineering new teeth may change other dental procedures beyond dental implants, including root canals.
Below is a fascinating video from the Regeneration Center of Thailand covering another possible tooth regeneration approach using stem cells. For more on Regenerative Endodontics, Dr. Peter E. Murray provides a great high-level overview of the field.