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Regenerating Teeth...Could Mice Hold the Answer?

While the dentistry has dramatically advanced over the years, certain procedures have remained the same. For instance, we still repair teeth with composite, porcelain and other restorative materials. But what if we could regrow teeth? Impossible, you say. Research says otherwise! Suprisingly, this may be in our future as two recent studies on rodents' teeth raise the possibility of fixing human teeth with well, our own teeth.

stem cells and teeth

A research team at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC studied the differences between rodents' molars and incisors. In contrast to rodents’ molars which stop growing, incisors continually grow. If it were not for the constant chewing which results in the incisors to wear down, these teeth would never stop growing.

What the USC team has uncovered is that rodents' incisors continue to grow because of the large number of active epithelial and mesenchymal stem cells. Molars, too, have stem cells; however, they are dormant. But the question remains, can we activate these stem cells? If so, can we regrow roots? And, how does this apply to humans?

On the east coast...

On the east coast at Harvard University, scientists focused in on stem cells in rats' molars to determine if they could promote dental regeneration. Back in 2014, the scientists deliberately harmed two adjacent molars in rats. Subsequently, they conducted a LASER treatment on one of the injured molars, discovering that the treated tooth had twice the dentin regeneration in comparison to the untreated molar. Dentin is the mineral rich layer of the tooth that is underneath the enamel.

As promising as the research sounds, the scientists encountered a slight problem. The regenerated dentin was not identical to dentin normally found in a natural tooth. Thus, further study is necessary to determine the causes of this disparity. But, even with the dentin discrepancy, this research is extremely exciting. What type of dentistry will dentists be performing in the future? Will fillings become obsolete? What do you think?

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