The field of dentistry is advancing in leaps and bounds. With continuous research focusing on novel therapies to “grow teeth” naturally, dentistry is on the verge of a revolutionary phase. Gone are the days of fearing a visit to the dentist. As patients become more aware, people are now looking for ways to conserve teeth rather than replace them when damaged or lost.
Regenerative dentistry aims to heal, grow, and regenerate dental tissues with novel therapies.
New ways to heal damaged teeth biologically, including bioactive dental filling materials and stem cell therapy for replacing lost teeth, have revolutionized dentistry.
Dental stem cells can be stored for future use, not only for regenerating teeth but also for treating life-threatening diseases.
The possibility of regrowing jawbone, clefts, and oral defects with stem cell therapy is currently under research.
“Regenerative dentistry” refers to therapies and ways of restoring, repairing, rejuvenating, and regenerating hard and soft dental tissues. Read on to get an elaborate idea of the recent innovations and therapies in regenerative dentistry.
Bioteeth: tooth regeneration
A lost tooth is usually replaced with a dental implant or bridge inserted into the jawbone. However, these traditional therapies often fail to simulate a natural tooth structurally and functionally and cause infections of gums and associated structures.
New research highlights that tissue-engineered teeth, like natural teeth, may be created by stimulating a biological response within the tooth. This is achieved with novel biomaterials that mimic the oral environment, help cell signaling, and have a low immune rejection status. Biomaterials act as porous scaffolds/matrices that create the cellular environment essential for tooth tissue regeneration. A “biotooth” is a tooth genetically produced from stem cells.
Stem cell therapy
Teeth form through a complex process that involves the simultaneous development of soft tissue, connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. Studies now highlight that teeth and their supporting tissues (including tooth pulp, developing roots, periodontal ligament, and jaw bone) are a "Pandora’s box" of stem cells. These dental stem cells are unique because of their ability to self-divide, renew, and mature into specialized cells.
These dental stem cells form the basis of current regenerative procedures. If stimulated correctly, these stem cells can reproduce different teeth layers and create a whole new tooth.
Bioactive dental fillings: healing damaged teeth parts
Three layers make up teeth — pulp (the innermost tissue rich in stem cells), dentine (the middle layer), and enamel (the outermost and hardest layer).
Traditionally, dentists drill out the damaged layers and perform a root canal if a tooth has a cavity. However, after the root canal, the tooth loses its strength and is often prone to fracture.
The “bioactive” tooth filling encourages dental stem cells to form healthy dentine and other layers. This saves the tooth from the cavity and strengthens it from the core. So, now there are ways to regrow teeth with a cavity — literally.
Regenerative therapies for clefts in newborns
Birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate occur when a baby's lip or palate does not grow together normally during pregnancy. It remains split even after birth.
Dentists are among the first specialists to detect and treat this defect. Dental stem cells obtained from the baby's milk teeth — commonly known as baby teeth — are a way to grow the tissue and close the defect.
Teethbanks: storing stem cells
Scientists suggest that dental stem cells can remedy various diseases, including cancers and genetic disorders. So stem cells, if preserved, can be of immense therapeutic value.
Dental stem cells are easy to collect. Stem cells are available from the milk teeth and permanent teeth. This makes it the first choice for long-term preservation in special chambers known as teethbanks. This process of collecting, isolating, and storing stem cells for application in regenerative medicine and therapy is known as stem cell banking.
Can a jawbone regrow?
Scientists have figured out a way to regrow teeth and jawbones. Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry have discovered a technique for using stem cells to rebuild up to 80% of a patient’s fractured jawbone. Although still a work in progress, research along these lines can be a game-changer in how dental stem cells are used for future reconstructive purposes.
Teeth help us with chewing and talking. They also give our faces a pleasant appearance. Studies show that 41% of children aged 2-11 years, 42% of children and adolescents aged 6-19 years, and 90% of adults suffer from at least one dental disease during their lifetime, thus making the replacement of lost or damaged teeth a necessity.
As regenerative therapies gain ground in dentistry, the old saying “Teeth once lost is lost forever” — is relevant no more. Though these therapies are in their nascent stages, the future of dentistry is undergoing a paradigm shift as more research continues to focus on innovations in the field of regenerative dentistry.
- Biomedical Journal. Banking on teeth – Stem cells and the dental office.
- Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine. Current overview on dental stem cells applications in regenerative dentistry.