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Will Dental Stem Cells Provide a Permanent Alternative to Dental Implants?

Posted on July 14, 2011 | in Dental Implants | by

When it comes to a missing tooth or teeth, dental implants are often the preferred method of permanent tooth replacement. A dental bridge or a complete set of shiny new dentures could be the not so permanent alternative…if you let your oral health fall by the wayside.

A new tooth replacement option could be in the works, at least judging from recent news out of Japan.

According to an article published this week from DrBicuspid.com, scientists in Japan said on Wednesday they have created teeth — complete with  connective fibers and bones — by using mouse stem cells and successfully transplanted them into mice, a step they hope will lead to progress in stem cell research.

“The bioengineered teeth were fully functional … there was no trouble (with) biting and eating food after transplantation,” wrote Masamitsu Oshima, assistant professor at the Research Institute for Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science.

Another way science and technology are coming together to improve our oral health.

Although the thought of a completely new set of Steve Austin chompers is probably more than several years off, the research and continued testing is the foundation from which all of us as dental patients will ultimately benefit.

Dental stem cells are immature, unspecialized cells in the body that are able to grow into specialized cell types by a process known as “differentiation.” There are two primary sources of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are found in many organs and tissues in the human body, including the dental pulp contained within teeth. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to grow into any cell type in the body.

However, there is great ethical controversy regarding obtaining and using these stem cells for medical research and treatment purposes.

Until recently, it was thought that adult stem cells could only turn into cells that were the same as those in the tissues and organs in which they were found. It is now known that adult stem cells taken from one area of the body can be transplanted into another area and grown into a completely different type of tissue.

This ability to grow and regenerate tissues is the focus of the emerging field of personalized medicine, which uses a patient’s own stem cells for biologically compatible therapies and individually tailored treatments. (Source: DentistryIQ.com)

So, dental stem cells are outside the controversial embryonic stem cell argument.

Does all of this seem to sci-fi for you, or do you consider dental stem cells a possible future solution to permanently replacing missing teeth?

(Sources: DentistryIQ.com), DrBicuspid.com)

 

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+Chris Barnard is Managing Editor of DentalPatientNews.com, a patient-centric Social Dental Network blog dedicated to enabling the digital dental health conversation - and the eradication of the cavity creeps.
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