What if damaged teeth could heal themselves without the need of a root canal? Apparently, that’s what Harvard and the University of Nottingham are trying to figure out. They believe they can create stem cell stimulated fillings.
Worldwide, dentists treat hundreds of millions of cavities each year by drilling out the decayed part of the tooth and replacing it with a filling. According to Popular Science, the problem is up to 15 percent of those procedures will fail, which will lead to a root canal to remove the tooth’s pulp, a soft tissue in the center of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The downside is, following a root canal, the tooth’s strength is weaker and could eventually need to be removed.
Adam Celiz is a therapeutic biomaterials researcher who believes that stem cells could help reduce the number of root canals and the need for dentures. Celiz and his team developed a new kind of filling that is made from stem cells that can help your tooth heal. Just like regular fillings, the biomaterial stem cells are injected into the tooth and hardened with ultra-violet light.
“Existing dental fillings are toxic to cells and are therefore incompatible with pulp tissue inside the tooth. In cases of dental pulp disease and injury, a root canal is typically performed to remove the infected tissues. We have designed synthetic biomaterials that can be used similarly to dental fillings but can be placed in direct contact with pulp tissue to stimulate the native stem cell population for repair and regeneration of pulp tissue and the surrounding dentin. ‘Our approach has great promise to impact the dental field and this prize provides a great platform to develop this technology further with industrial partners.”
Celiz believes that all fillings could be made of such regenerative material so that damaged teeth could heal themselves, which, in theory, would reduce the filling failures and could completely eliminate the need for root canals.
The researchers believe that if used on a damaged tooth, those stem cells can repair the tooth. It would mimic a filling but would have a very low risk of rejection or failure. The easiest way to explain it is the tooth would heal itself, with the help of the stem cell biomaterial injection.
According to Daily Mail, the research placed second in the materials category of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition in 2016. Applications were judged on the degree of innovation, the potential impact, and the quality of the science behind it.
Many dentists aren’t sure if stem cells have a place in dentistry. They suggest additional research to prove (or disprove) its benefits.