Researchers are developing a low-intensity laser that may be able to repair damaged hard tissue using stem cells. When chipped or eroded, dentists fill in the missing parts of the tooth with a variety of substances that tend to degrade over time. If this new technology comes to fruition, dentists will no longer need to use drills, making future dental repair procedures minimally invasive.
Praveen Arany and his colleagues at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in Bethesda, Maryland have been researching the use of stem cells to heal teeth by harnessing the body’s own natural mechanisms.
Testing the laser on dentin, which is the hard, calcified tooth enamel that normally doesn’t regrow, Arany and his team used a low-intesnity laser on a rat’s exposed tooth, and the soft tissue underneath. This allowed the light to reach the dental stem cells deep inside the pulp of the tooth.
Just twelve weeks after a one-time treatment that took only five minutes, new dentin had actually formed in the cavity. Similar dentin production was seen in both mice and cultured human dental stem cells.
Although this sounds too good to be true, Arany and his colleagues seem convinced this technology will work. According to Aranay, “Everything we need is in the existing tooth structure – the adult stem cells, the growth factors, and exactly the right conditions.” Arany also emphasizes the low-cost of the procedure due to its simplicity, “Patients may experience some discomfort following the procedure, as would be expected in all healing processes, but at the low power setting for stimulating dentin, the laser treatment itself is barely discernible.”
(The featured image at the very top of the page shows a microscopic shot of a groups of stem cells reacting to laser treatment)