There has been much talk in the media about using stem cells to address serious health issues. Perhaps you've heard that stem cells have the ability to treat diabetes or help regrow nerve tissue in people with spinal cord injuries. Interestingly, researchers are also examining if it's possible to use stem cells to grow teeth.
Can Dentists Use Stem Cells To Grow Teeth? Exploring The Future Possibilities
As the National Institutes of Health explains, stem cells are unlike any other cells in the human body for three specific reasons:
- They are unspecialized. Unlike organ-specific cells, like a liver cell or a muscle cell, stems cells don't serve one particular purpose.
- They can divide and renew themselves, even after long periods of inactivity.
- They have the unique ability to generate specialized types of cells that serve various organs.
In traditional dentistry, when a tooth has a cavity, a dental professional will remove the area of decay and replace it with a filling material, as the Mayo Clinic explains. If the decay travels through the outermost layers of the tooth and reaches the dental pulp, the patient may require a special procedure called a root canal to remove the infection in the tooth and the affected tissues. When the decay is quite extensive, a dental professional may need to remove the tooth entirely.
In all three of these instances, the current standard of dental treatment requires removal of the dental tissues. But what if stem cells could be used to regrow tooth structure, dental pulp or an entire tooth? The way society thinks of dentistry would be forever changed.