Study: Lasers, Rats and the Future of Dentistry

A new Harvard-led study published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, has determined that the use of low powered lasers can stimulate stem cells enough to regenerate and grow rat teeth and human dental tissue.

This concept may seem barbaric, but it could be a metamorphic tool in the constantly evolving world of dentistry.

Researchers have been trying to figure out new ways to use the versatility of stem cells since they exist in abundance throughout the human body. Stem cells are unique in the sense that they can become different types of cells, making them prime candidates to repair or replace damaged tissue.

Although the research is still in its earliest stages and has yet to be tested on humans, using lasers to stimulate growth is not a new concept – but this study marks the first time that this process has been demonstrated and observed. The findings in this study could potentially change the future of dentistry since it could be possible to regrow teeth rather than replacing them with another material.

The experiment involved drilling holes in rat molars to expose the dentin; one molar was treated with a laser while the other molars went untreated. After 12 weeks, the researchers noticed that the dentin was growing back in the treated molar. After this finding, all of the rat molars were treated with lasers and yielded the same results.

This technique was also tested on various mammal cells and the researchers observed that certain oxygen containing molecules were stimulated and caused the stem cells to convert into dentin as well. When this technique was tested on human dental stem cells, the results were also similar.

Although this is groundbreaking research, don’t expect to see this technique incorporated into the dental practice any time soon. Even though the teeth grew back in the rats, the teeth did not grow back perfectly each time. There was unnecessary and excess buildup that could eventually lead to painful oral conditions.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Since human teeth are larger than rat teeth, researchers hypothesize that it could be possible to pinpoint certain growth areas without causing extensive tissue formation. The researchers are currently developing human trials for this technique to see what the laser and stem cell combination have in store for the future of dentistry.

By Denise Prichard

See more at: 2014/06/study-lasers-rats-and-the-future-of-dentistry