As technology advances, your dental visits may see improvements, as well. The latest innovation is stem cell regeneration for tooth replacement.
If you need to replace a missing tooth, you usually have 2 options: a dental implant or dentures. 1) An implant is ideal for replacing a single tooth. A small titanium rod is inserted where the tooth root was previously. A crown is placed on top of the rod to look like a natural tooth. 2) Dentures are ideal if you have several teeth that need replacing. You can either get partial dentures or full dentures depending on your situation.
The latest advancement may offer another option for replacing a missing tooth when it has been fully proven. Researchers have been developing a process to re-grow teeth naturally using stem cell regeneration. We reached out to a few dentistry experts to ask their opinion on this stem cell regrowth.
Stem Cell Research
In the past, stem cells have been used for bone marrow transplants as a replacement for damaged bone marrow. While stem cell regeneration is not new to the health field, over the past decade or so it has made its way into the field of dentistry. As the “spearhead” of the research at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Jeremy Mao and his team have been researching, testing and developing the process of tooth regeneration through stem cells.
Definition of Terms
- Growth Factor: a natural substance that promotes cellular growth
- Scaffold: a temporary structure (formed in the shape of a tooth)
How Does It Work?
The team at Columbia University Medical Center has orchestrated a way to grow a tooth inside your mouth naturally, rather than replacing it with an artificial one (as with traditional dental implants). The process would begin by placing a scaffold in the mouth. To enable the stem cells to grow, a growth factor would cover the scaffold. Over time, the stem cells would naturally grow to fit the scaffold, producing your new tooth!
Is It a Procedure I Can Get Done?
Currently, this procedure is not one that is available to the public. It is still being developed and refined so that one day it can be offered with safety.
What Experts Say…
Because the discovery and innovation of stem cell regeneration, for dental implants specifically, is fairly new and in development, we wanted to get the opinion of experts in the dental field. We asked a handful of knowledgeable dentists and dental researchers the question below:
Do you think that stem cell regeneration for teeth is a viable replacement for implants?
Cosmetic & Restorative Dentist
“It is possible that in the long term stem cell regeneration could be used in conjunction with implants to produce tissue or bone needed to secure them but it would not be a viable replacement for implants.”
Cosmetic & Restorative Dentist
“Yes, I do believe stem cell regeneration will someday be a viable alternative to dental implants. It will be quite a few years before we see that though.
Although dental implants are superb, they are still artificial devices made of Titanium or Zirconia. When we develop the necessary technology to grow a new tooth by using stem cell regeneration, then we will have a real natural tooth, which will always beat an artificial substitute.
As to will this hurt or help cosmetic dentists, I frankly feel that all scientific advances help dentists in the long run. As a dentist, I am always looking for the best way to help my patients. Having a new technology will help my patients and I will learn how to do it for my patients and charge for a service that will greatly benefit them (which is what I do now).
Everyone needs their teeth for their whole life. If someone values their teeth then they will find the necessary money to do whatever new service comes along to help them. Most of my patients come to my office in a car that might cost anywhere from $20,000 to even a $100,000 or more new. They value their cars but in 5 years that car will probably be worth half of what they paid. A new tooth will not depreciate like that and the value of that new tooth is priceless!”
Director of Periodontal Research at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine
“Yes. Not sure how close we will ever get to replacing missing teeth with teeth regenerated using stem cells. I believe it is a promising approach that is going to take many years before we can use it in the clinic.”
Dental Advisor at Oral Health Foundation
“Although stem cell regeneration for teeth is still in relatively early stages and needs more research, in the future this treatment could be a viable alternative to dental implants.”
Dr. Paul Krasner
Scientific Advisor for the Journal of Endodontics
“Yes, it is viable as a replacement for implants when the technique for creating new teeth from stem cells is perfected. That technique is a long way off. They will be a much better replacement for implants because Implants are inherently flawed. They are an artificial device that will, eventually, break down. Implants are not as good as they are purported. The downside to them has been glossed over because they are such a huge source of income for dentists. When they are done correctly, they will succeed at a high rate but, unfortunately, they are often done poorly.
A stem cell regenerated tooth will be a natural tooth. It will be the same as a tooth that erupts at six years of age. It is better than implants in every way. I predict this will be viable in 10-15 years. It is impossible to predict whether or not it will be affordable to the mass public. For the very wealthy, it will be very affordable. It will be like cell phones. When they first came out, they cost $2,500. Now, they are disposable.”
What do you think about stem cell regeneration for teeth? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!