Can We Regrown Teeth?
New technique involving lasers shows it is possible to regrow teeth (or parts of it).
There are some “bright” (literally) new ideas coming down the line in regards to dental technology. Namely, researchers have recently accomplished the task of coaxing dental stem cells in teeth to regrow parts of itself (in the case mentioned, dentin) using laser light. A little information on what stem cells are: stem cells are like master cells that are able to change into various types of tissues in the human body. So essentially, they are able to, with the correct laser intensity, prompt existing stem cells in your teeth to start reforming parts of itself. Pretty remarkable considering we are currently using technology that dates back longer than I care to say right now. It IS some starkly definite progress, to be sure, however.
Researchers have yet been able to promote the entirety of the tooth to start the regrowth, simply because enamel seems a bit more tricky. Enamel is also much harder than the second layer of the teeth (the dentin). The study has not been approved for human trials yet, hopefully will soon. So far the research involved was using mice and rats in the trials. What they did, essentially was: drill holes into the molars of the rodents in the test, “zapped” the pulp of the tooth with the correct laser intensity, put a temporary cap on the tooth and watched as the dentin formed over a 4 month period. They got the idea to do this as lasers have been used successfully in regenerating other parts of the body, but they weren’t quite sure of the mechanism involved.
The researchers found out that laser exposure of the tooth, when done at the right, low intensity propelled a type of chemically active, oxygen-containing molecule to activate a certain cell protein that is known to be involved in development, healing and immune functions. This protein then directed stem cells already extant in the tooth pulp to form into dentin.
The application of this technique are pretty great. For one thing, in the future it may be possible to do away with that much dreaded procedure of old; the root canal! If it continues to advance to the point we can not only repair dentin, but enamel as well, I’ll even start dreaming of a day we can just “heal a cavity”. Image that. Doing away with the need to pull teeth, but instead heal them, and regrow teeth. That would be a dream come true for patient and doctor alike.
We’re not quite there yet.
There is still quite a lot of work to be done on this subject in terms of research, trial, and application, but, wow! What a start! Talk about conservative dentistry. Instead of removing portions of your teeth in order to give you a porcelain dental crown, what if, at some point, we could just prompt your cells to regrow teeth from existing cells? That could positively affect you in the long run as well. You’ll be able to keep your teeth longer, which would enable you to eat the foods you like, and allow you to maintain a healthy diet for that much longer.
There may even be more benefits yet discovered from this technique. Aside from the ability to regrow teeth, in the future we could be looking at regenerating heart tissue, repairing bones, healing wounds, and more!
We have seen similar techniques of what we do currently (drill and fill) as far back as 9,000 years ago. I think it’s about time we’ve advanced in dentistry. We are looking forward to being able to say to our patients of the future, “I see you have a few cavities. No problem. We can regrow teeth now.”
Stay healthy my friends.