Did you know…that stem cells implanted into the gums previously occupied by teeth grow into a new set of teeth in only 2 months?
Dentures and dental implants may soon become a thing of the past. Stem cell research is making it possible to regrow your missing teeth! This is a much-needed medical advancement, especially considering that by age 74—26% of adults have lost all of their permanent teeth.
Stem cells are no ordinary cells. They have the extraordinary ability to multiply and transform into many different types of cells in the body. They repair tissues by dividing continually either as a new stem cell or as a cell with a more specialized job, such as a red blood cell, a skin cell, or a muscle cell.
The Exciting New Science of Stem Cell Tooth Regeneration
Understanding the replenishing potential of stem cells, scientists at the Dental Institute of King’s College London successfully used stem cells to grow new teeth in mice. Capitalizing on this technology and wishing to further explore its application in humans, the UK based dental company Odontis developed the patented product, BioTooth¨, in 2004.
The researchers’ main difficulty was controlling the size and shape of the newly formed tooth. No one wants a molar where an incisor should be! After 3 years of research and careful observation, scientists at Odontis learned which genes were responsible for tooth type and size—a major breakthrough that brought them several steps closer to applying the technology to humans.
While clinical trials in humans are still on hold, researchers are aiming to perfect their technique on mice before administering the technology to humans. Odontis expects to release their BioTooth¨ product within the next several years.
Stem Cell Implants: A Non-Invasive, Healthier Alternative to Artificial Dental Implants and Dentures
Stem cell tooth implantation promises to replace invasive procedures such as dental implants, the use of which is the most rapidly increasing area of dentistry, growing 15-20% every year.
Dental implant surgery is executed in stages and entails several procedures. Artificial implants carry many risks: infection…harm to the surrounding teeth and blood vessels…nerve damage…sinus problems…swelling…bruising…bleeding…and pain.
The healing process can take up to 18 months and often the implants refuse to align with the jawbone and end up falling out.
A stem cell implant, on the other hand, promises to be a non-invasive procedure that requires the use of a local anesthetic only. Within 2 months, the stem cells grow into a new tooth, an exact match of your old one! The stem cells also produce the bone that connects the tooth to the jaw, eliminating the need for bone grafting, a procedure that can delay dental implant surgery 6 to 9 months. With regenerated teeth, there is also no risk of the implanted tooth falling out.
Stem cell tooth implants are also a healthier and more comfortable alternative to dentures. Unlike dentures, the newly developed teeth move with your mouth, conserving the health of your gums.
The Future of Stem Cell Tooth Regeneration
While Odontics has made significant advancements in stem cell tooth regeneration, Dr. Jeremy Mao, the Edward V. Zegarelli Professor of Dental Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, has also made significant progress using a growth factor-covered, three-dimensional scaffold. Dr. Mao has developed a way to guide stem cells to the scaffold, where a tooth then grows and attaches to the surrounding tissue in as little as 9 weeks.
This technology, referred to as cell-homing-based tooth regeneration, alleviates the need to prepare stem cells in an external environment, such as a Petri dish. Columbia University is in the process of patenting this technology.
Stem cell implants are expected to cost around $2500-3500. The average cost of artificial implants currently ranges from $1000-5000 per tooth—and require similar post-op care as tooth extractions do.