Imagine if you could grow a brand-new tooth in case you lost one? This is something which we can expect to happen in the future. Researchers have now been able to regrow dental tissues in damaged teeth, inside their laboratories. Soon the days will be gone when dental implants were the most reliable and durable option for replacing missing teeth. Thanks to tissue engineering and dental stem cell research, re-doing your own natural teeth and other body organs will become possible sooner than you think.
What are Stem Cells?
Before we discuss the importance of stem cell research, we should first understand what they are. Consider them as new-born babies. Just like babies and children can be trained to do or learn virtually anything, stem cells are “babies” which have the potential to grow into any type of tissue or organ.
Why are They so Important?
But why have stem cells become so important for us now? It’s because of their ability to convert into virtually any type of cell or tissue. We know that our bodies maintain a tight balance between each cell which are dying and the new cells which are being produced each day. In this way, our bodies maintain the health and optimal functioning of all the organs.
Now, imagine, what if we could apply the same principle to regrow body tissues and organs? Yes, it’s possible and that’s exactly what scientists have been trying to achieve; harnessing the power of different stem cells in the body for growth and repair inside the body. This is known as tissue engineering.
Understanding Different Types of Cells
Now let’s talk about different types of stem cells which are can be used inside the body. Adult sources of stem cells include fat tissues, blood, and the bone marrow. However, as we age, our bodies produce smaller and smaller amounts of stem cells (this is why we age!). Therefore, it’s best to utilize stem cells from children. Usually, stem cells in children are obtained from the umbilical cord during childbirth. But what if your parents missed that opportunity? Don’t worry, there is still an option available! The dental stem cells are extracted from milk teeth in children. This is because the milk teeth are a rich source of different types of them.
How the Technology Works?
Successful utilization for tissue growth and repair is dependent on three factors; stem cells, growth factors, and scaffolds. Growth factors are chemicals that serve as messengers for the cells, and different them into specific tissues. Each growth factor induces the differentiation of a specific type of cell line. Finally, the scaffolds, as the name suggests, function as a framework around which the new tissue will form. For example, if you have teeth cavities, your dentist (in the very near future) will be able to take out stem cells from your milk teeth, which were previously saved, to regenerate the enamel and dentine tissue. So, no more fillings!
What are the Possibilities?
When it comes to this research, the possibilities are virtually endless! From regenerating damaged tooth structures, gum and periodontal tissue, and even growing a whole new tooth! All you need to do is to store your stem cells for a rainy day, which many companies throughout the world would gladly do for you, for a fee of course!
It must be kept in mind that due to current restrictions by the US government, stem cell technology has not been applied clinically on humans. However, various tests have been successfully conducted on animals to regenerative body tissues, including teeth and other dental structures. It’s just a matter of time when dental implants will become obsolete! Instead, your dentist will be able to grow your missing teeth at the dental chair side.
It might be time to start saying goodbye to current restorative and implant dentistry. Stem cell technology will usher in a new era of convenience and ease for dental patients, by making it possible to regain their dental tissues even after they have been completely lost. The future seems to be very promising for dentistry.