Dental stem cells may help repair injured teeth

A new clinical trial has shown promising results in using dental stem cells derived from a patient’s baby tooth to bring a dead tooth back to life, according to findings published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania conducted the clinical trial.

Patients in the test group of 30 children had stem cells extracted from the pulp of one of their healthy baby teeth, which were then grown in a lab before being implanted into the injured tooth. The researchers followed up with the patients after treatment, and found that one year later those who had received the stem cell treatment had regained some sensation in the injured tooth, while the control group had not.

The article added that further follow-ups over the years revealed that the test group seemed to have healthier root development, increased blood flow and thicker bony tissue forming the bulk of the tooth beneath the enamel, called dentin.

"This treatment gives patients sensation back in their teeth," says Dr. Songtao Shi, co-lead author of the study and professor and chair in the department of anatomy and cell biology in Penn’s School of Dental Medicine, in a news release from Penn. "If you give them a warm or cold stimulation, they can feel it; they have living teeth again. So far we have follow-up data for two, two and a half, even three years, and have shown it's a safe and effective therapy."

According to the news release, Dr. Shi has been working for a decade to test the possibilities of dental stem cells after discovering them in his daughter’s baby tooth. He and colleagues have learned more about how these dental stem cells, officially called human deciduous pulp stem cells, work, and how they could be safely used to regrow dental tissue, known as pulp. 

“For me, the results are very exciting,” Dr. Shi said in the news release. “To see something we discovered take a step forward to potentially become a routine therapy in the clinic is gratifying. We’re really eager to see what we can do in the dental field and then building on that to open up channels for systemic disease therapy.”

The research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China, the Natural Science Foundation of China and a pilot grant from Penn Dental Medicine.

© 2018 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.