What if, instead of attempting to fix problems with old teeth, your dentist could actually use lasers to grow a brand new tooth or set of teeth? Thanks to a group of researchers at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), this Science Fiction-sounding solution to tooth-decay, cavities, and chipped chompers might soon be a reality!
According to the study published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine, the scientists first drilled holes in rats’ teeth to simulate tooth decay, then applied a layer of adult stem cells to the exposed dental pulp. When a non-ionizing, low-powered laser was applied to the stem cells, the Harvard bio-engineers found that the light triggered the growth of naturally-occurring dentin (the hard material that teeth are made from) in the rodents!
This research not only has far-reaching implications for dental professionals, it also helps researchers begin to understand how and why the “growth factors” (proteins in the stem cells) begin to differentiate into new tissues. Though anecdotal evidence about the power of low-level light therapy has been around for decades, this study was the first to identify the molecular reasoning behind laser light’s efficacy.
The team hopes to begin human trials for restorative dentistry soon, and their research could lead to new ways to cap teeth, prevent root canals, or decrease tooth sensitivity.
For more on this fascinating development, check out these resources:
Lisa Winter @ IFLScience.com: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/scientists-use-lasers-regrow-teeth-stem-cells
Carolyn Y. Johnson @ The Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/science/2014/05/28/laser-light-triggers-stem-cells-regrow-teeth/esb9dQxOWVsQQj27fGdEiP/story.html