Science is truly amazing. In the last century we have begun to explore space, traveled to parts of the ocean few ever thought possible, we have cured diseases, transplanted hearts, given hearing back to the deaf, learned how to correct eyesight, and the list just keeps growing. Now, the possibility of regrowing teeth is intriguing dentists, biologists, biotechnologists, and everyone who follows the world of scientific advancement.
Unlike sharks, we only get one set of teeth, so for those with severe tooth loss the options have been limited. There are always dentures. Originally bulky ill-fitting creations, they are now a viable option for millions of people.
The problem with dentures is that some foods like corn on the cob, whole apples, and nuts remain problematic. Even properly fitting dentures can let food particles in. This brings in bacteria and can irritate the gum line. With proper care and wear, dentures are still better than the alternative.
For decades, the focus has been on preventive care, brushing, flossing, dental visits and the like. Dental implants actually date back to the Mayan civilization in roughly 600 C.E. An ancient mandible bone shows sea shells which were shaped to look like teeth. Obviously, we no longer use shells to replace teeth, but this does not mean they have to be our only option.
Laser technology, used by a team of researchers at Harvard University, stimulated the stems cells which exist in our mouths. One type of stem-cell exists throughout the human body. The replicative tissue has the potential to regrow other organs as well.
Stem cells are basically blank cells. When we are forming in the womb, our whole composition is stem-cells. As we grow, the stem cells group together and form specific body parts. Some cells are left over and remain blank.
In adults, these stem cells are somewhat restricted. Brain stem cells must become part of the brain and in the mouth they must stay part of the mouth. When these cells are activated they replicate and form the body component they were meant to be.
When low-powered lasers were used on the teeth of rats and human dental tissue, regrowth occurred. This is a non-invasive technique, so if the specifics can be figured out it will revolutionize the dental field and give more options to those who cannot receive traditional transplants.
It was in the 1960’s that doctors first seemed to notice that laser could encourage the growth of cells, but until recently it had never been observed and documented. Drills won’t be completely out of the picture just yet, though, the first step in the process is to drill holes in the tooth to expose the interior.
The dentin is bombarded with a laser and the stem cells activate. The process continues over the next several weeks, but when all is said and done, researchers could prove that molecules were reappearing. It is similar to using grow lights to encourage winter plant growth. The cell is dormant until it is activated.
The problem scientists are facing now is how to get the teeth to form properly. In the rats the area was small, in human teeth the process is expected to go more smoothly. But, the specifics of how much stimulation to give each area is still being determined.
The research stage is still in its infancy and no testing on humans has yet been conducted. If the mechanic’s can be figured out, though, it means that other organs and tissues can potentially be repaired. Imagine an hour long session which restores your teeth and brings back their brightness.
Copyright Dr. Jean-Jacques Edderai -2015