Teeth may be able to repair themselves with the help of a laser

 
By Tiffany Wilson, UF Health Jacksonville • Published: October 22nd, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Halloween candy could put your teeth in a scary state, but researchers are looking into an eerie new technique that could be used to repair decaying teeth in the future.

Could you imagine if teeth could regenerate?

Using human dental stem cells and lasers, Harvard University scientists were able to prompt parts of teeth in rodents to regrow. They placed the stem cells in holes in molars and then used a low-light laser to coax the cells into action. They covered the teeth with temporary caps and waited.

Within 10 weeks, the cells had filled the holes with a slightly morphed version of dentin, a hard material that is similar to bone and makes up most of a tooth’s structure.

If the same method works in humans, it could bring about a drastic change in dentistry and perhaps in many other aspects of medicine. Teeth, bones and tissue may be repaired with the zap of a laser instead of more invasive techniques like drilling. And researchers could be one step closer to finding a way to help people regenerate entire organs rather than requiring a donor organ.

A major draw of the technique is that it doesn’t introduce anything foreign into the body. And, since lasers are already widely used in dentistry and medicine, researchers believe this self-regenerating method could be incorporated quickly if it proves to be safe and effective in people.

Medical lasers have been used as far back as the 1960s. In low-level light doses, they can stimulate a number of biological processes, including skin repair and hair growth. Interestingly, higher-level light doses can do the opposite, removing skin and hair.

The Harvard researchers are now planning phase two of their study, when they will begin studying whether this therapy will work in people.