Stem Cells, Lasers, and Dental Revolutions

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benefits of porcelain veneers

Though preventative measures like dental sealants and fluoride toothpaste are commonly used, virtually everyone experiences dental caries. A staggering 91% of Americans between 20 and 64 are still affected by tooth decay or cavities in their permanent teeth.

There are many solutions for a broken or missing tooth, but none so far involve the complete regrowth of an actual tooth. None until now. New research suggests that with the use of cell-stimulating medications teeth can essentially be ‘tricked’ into repairing themselves. If these drugs are as successful as scientists predict, then we may see a new era in dental care where tissue and even teeth can be regrown.

So far this is one of several options for tooth regeneration. Let’s take a look at some other approaches.

Stem Cells

Usually, when a dentist finds caries, more commonly known as cavities, they drill out the decayed material and repair the hole using amalgam to fill the space. While these fillings are a viable option, they can fail and sometimes fall out, which leads to another trip to the dentist.

Instead of using amalgam fillings, research has found that certain drugs can manipulate the stems cells within the dental pulp. The dental pulp is the soft tissue within the teeth filled with blood vessels and nerves, which explains why it’s so painful to have decay in this area. Using these drugs promotes the pulp to regrow the dentin, or bony tissue, that can fill the cavity.

Tideglusib is one of the low-cost experimental drugs in particular that researchers are excited about. It’s currently being tested to stimulate the renewal of new cells in Alzheimer’s treatment but could be used to stop tooth decay as well.

Leading this research is Dr. Paul Sharpe, a professor of stem biology at King’s College London.  He explains that “The dentin produced by stimulating stem cells with Tideglusib integrates itself completely within the tooth, so there’s no risk of the filling coming out, which is a big problem with the current methods, which haven’t changed much in the past 100 years.” While Tideglusib has only been studied in rats so far, human trials are in the near future. Hopefully, using Tideglusib will eventually replace amalgam fillings, which can contain toxic mercury.


You read that right, lasers. Another possible way to regrow teeth is through the use of low-power lasers that can stimulate tooth regeneration. Decay often leads to cavities, which if left untreated can reach the pulp of the tooth and require a root canal. Similar to a tooth filling, a root canal removes a large portion of the tooth, is then filled with amalgam, and finally sealed with an artificial cap. Also like a filling, root canals can fail over time as a result of normal chewing and wear.

Research has found that using the light of a laser on the pulp cap stimulate the stem cells to produce new dentin. Though the procedure would still require a cap, it is more likely to be stronger that the tradition root canal. The human body is able to heal its own tissues through stems cell, so channeling this ability in dentistry could allow for complete tooth regeneration.

Regrowing Missing Teeth

For dentists, mecca is growing an entire new tooth. While it has been done in mice, there are more restrictions when it comes to humans. The process would involve creating a tooth primordium, which is a tooth in its first stage of development, and implanting it in the jaw.

Currently, the only way to create a tooth primordium is through the use of stem cells from human embryos–a method that is stunted by U.S. law. Since adults mouths don’t have the cells to create teeth, scientists must find another way to harvest these cells without the use of an embryo.

If you are ready to explore this revolutionary treatment, stop by our Pope Dental office today to learn more about last dentistry! Reach out to our Walnut Creek dentists at (925) 939-4989, or contact us online.