Most of us have at least heard the term “stem cell therapy.” Researchers have been studying the use of stem cells for several years. This remarkable science has been applied to a large variety of medical issues, such as injuries to the spinal cord, insulin production in diabetes patients, repairing of heart muscle cells after a heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions. But you may not have heard how stem cell therapy is connected to oral health. Experts are now extending stem cell research into the field of dentistry. While these studies are just in the beginning phases, the possibilities for how stem cells may change dental technology are exciting and hold much promise for future advancements. It all revolves around root canals.
A root canal is a procedure that is often recommended by a dentist when an infection has spread into the pulp of the tooth. The process involves drilling deep into the affected tooth, removing the pulp, then filling the tooth and sealing it off. Although the tooth remains functional since a tooth doesn’t require pulp to function like other teeth, a root canal does in effect kill the tooth since nerves, connecting tissue and blood vessels (pulp) are removed during the procedure.
But now, researchers from Harvard and the University of Nottingham may have developed a method of using stem cell therapy that may completely eliminate the need for root canal procedures. These researchers are working on a process that involves injecting a material made partly from stem cells into an affected tooth. After this mixture is injected, the stem cells will theoretically allow the tooth to heal itself, as opposed to a dental professional having to remove the pulp of the tooth in a root canal procedure. This new technology, if proven true and made available to dental professionals, could mean a significant reduction in the need for root canals and other procedures such as dental implants, for example.
Although much work needs to be done before stem cell treatment is routinely used in your dentist’s office, the future looks promising. This should come as particularly good news for people who are fearful of dental procedures. A patient with dental anxiety will undoubtedly cringe at the thought of having a root canal or implant, but someday before too long those procedures may be a thing of the past, thanks to stem cell research.