When, and if, these two new treatments are successful on humans, they could end up totally replacing the dental composite and dental implants industries.
The new advancements don’t work from the perspective of replacing teeth that are damaged or fall out due to trauma, cavities, or gum disease. Instead, the stem cells are used to actually regenerate the teeth.
This is possible because stem cells can create any type of cell in the body. When the right stem cell is used along with the right growth factors to encourage stem cell growth, new tissues – such as a tooth – can become a reality.
The two advancements that were used in these initial studies were:
1. Low level laser therapy that activated the stem cells and created new teeth.
2. The creation of a 3-D scaffold with a collagen sponge upon which the stem cells and growth factors were added, and new teeth formed. Sometimes a drug is used to start the process.
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How Cavities Can Become Nerve Root Issues and Teeth End Up Dead
In normal tooth anatomy, it’s harmful microorganisms that breach the enamel of the tooth. Once inside the enamel, the infection may spread to the soft pulp of the tooth. Inside the pulp of the tooth is the dentin, which surrounds the blood vessels and the nerve that nourish the tooth.
If an infection makes it to the pulp of the tooth where the nerve root of the tooth is, then an abscess may form. This is when dentists may decide that a nerve root removal is necessary – because the patient is in a lot of pain and because the nerve root is essentially dying.
However, by removing the infected nerve root, the tooth then will not continue to get any nerve supply, and over time, it may die. A tooth with a nerve root removed is a much-weakened tooth. If the tooth dies, it must be removed and a gap then exists in the teeth, creating new issues with chewing, weakened and stressed surrounding gums and other teeth.
Thus, any new solution creating the regeneration of one’s own teeth is always going to be much preferred to the current dental procedures.
Here’s How The New Techniques Work
The first new technique – utilizing low level lasers to stimulate stem cells – was reported in dental journals in 2014. Scientists at the University of Buffalo in New York first drilled holes in rat molars to simulate what would happen if there had been a cavity in the tooth.
Next they applied the adult stem cells they had grown in the laboratory to the pulp of the tooth. They lasered the area to stimulate the growth factors. And finally, the teeth were sealed with a temporary cap for 12 weeks.
What happened in the procedure is that laser induces the production of free radicals in the area. These free radicals then activate a growth factor called TGF-B1. It’s this TGF-B1 that then causes the differentiation of the human dental stem cells. That’s how they got the new tooth to appear.
3D Scaffold Growth Factor Inducing Method
In the second stem cell advancement for tooth regeneration, it was scientists in London at Kings College’s Dental Institute that grew new teeth in mice. This occurred back in 2004 but there was a major flaw with the process – the scientists couldn’t control what the new teeth looked like or how large they were.
In other words, a new tooth would grow in the spot where it should grow but it might be an incisor instead of a molar or a front tooth!
Three years later, investigations of the genes controlling the different type of teeth provided an answer. The genes that create an incisor were vastly different from the genes that create a molar, a front tooth, a tooth in the bottom row or even a wisdom tooth.
At Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Jeremy Mao and his staff developed an advancement in the London method and it only took about 9 weeks for the tooth to appear. It’s a method called cell honing-based tooth regeneration, and it involves creating a 3D scaffold for a tooth in the mouth where the stem cells can attach.
The genius of this method is that the scaffold is covered with all the growth factors that the new budding tooth needs for nourishment. In this method, it’s unnecessary to grow the stem cells in the laboratory first.
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This scaffolding method can be applied to cavities as well. It’s a way to fix a cavity without drilling. While scientists were attempting to solve the health issue of Alzheimer’s disease with a drug called Tideglusib, they discovered that the drug regrew enough dentin in the tooth to fill a cavity – in rats. The drug can also regenerate the nerve and blood vessel in the pulp of the tooth, which could literally transform the entire dental industry.
Tideglusib works in a unique way. It switches off an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase-3, or GSK-3. This enzyme is responsible for regulating multiple cellular functions – ones that are related to Alzheimer’s disease and also the creation of dentin.
In normal adult teeth, there are signals that tell your teeth there’s no need to keep creating dentin. These signals are regulated by GSK-3 so when it’s turned off, then your teeth will start creating dentin again.
The current studies use a procedure where a sponge soaked with the drug is inserted into the area that needs addressing. Within six weeks, the damaged tooth was repaired. Since the sponge was made of collagen, the body could handle it and the sponge didn’t need to be removed at a later date.
Don’t Give Up Your Oral Hygiene!
These new advancements show us that getting new teeth to replace old ones that are diseased or missing are definitely on the horizon. However, it will still be a while before dental clinics start offering perfected versions of the animal study procedures that are fit for humans. In the meantime, stay on your dental routines of using that electric toothbrush, flossing and water pik!