By Arya Bhatt
Published 1:25 EST, Thurs October 21st, 2021
As seen in a variety of medical applications over multiple years of development, stem cells have been an extraordinary treatment tool for many people. Whether that has been for treatment of blood diseases, fighting cancer or as a method for tissue regeneration, stem cells are continually being developed for the betterment of the whole human population. Now with research in this field escalating on new levels due to the many benefits found, stem cells have been obtained, observed from teeth and put into many dental applications. With multitudes of research that has taken place and will take place in the future, there are excellent prospects of this treatment being widely used as part of dental treatment.
The discovery of stem cells in dental pulp (a layer underneath dentine made up of connective tissue) has vast benefits. Unlike other living organs, teeth possess a limited capacity to repair itself. Furthermore, the anatomy of a tooth is complex and does not just involve the outer layer of enamel we are all aware of. Tooth repair with these stem cells may have much better results which leads to better patient satisfaction and reduced likelihood of complications.
One use of this treatment involves the use of regenerative dental fillings that allow teeth to heal by themselves. The tooth filling would work by stimulating stem cells to encourage the growth of dentine– the main bony material under the hard enamel, which would effectively allow patients to regrow teeth that are damaged through dental disease. The stem cells are obtained from human exfoliated deciduous teeth (SHED). If these treatments are effective and begin to be used in many patients, these patients would be much happier with the result and makes their process of visiting the dentist less intimidating. For example, if a patient’s pulp has been damaged by a bacterial infection, they would normally need a root canal treatment and many are afraid to get this treatment completed due to it being more of an invasive procedure. On the other hand, if stem cell treatments are available, more people would be willing to undergo a simple “filling” to help them recover, and the overall oral health of the community would improve as patients are less hesitant to undergo treatment.
Furthermore, periodontal ligament stem cells are proposed to be effective in periodontitis (severe gum disease). Currently, tests have been completed on pigs and when these stem cells have been transplanted into surgically created periodontal defect areas,which have been seen to regenerate. This could be a favourable treatment method. Rather than a sole relyment on good oral hygiene and professional cleanings in the latter stages of periodontitis, this irreversible disease can be treated to a much higher standard.
However, even though dental treatments using stem cells seem highly attractive, there are some drawbacks. Even when ignoring costs which are currently high for stem cell usage, it is important to note that the obtaining of stem cells from a patient cannot be done at just any point of their lives. Availability is much greater at a younger age. A comprehensive storage solution of these cells would have to be devised.
In the future, if a whole organic tooth can be grown in place of a lost one, this could have fantastic prospects for patients. Rather than being forced to use dentures or having an artificial crown implanted, which can result in complications, a more natural tooth could fill the gap. Patient treatments would be able to be much more personalised, avoiding other complications and challenges. At the moment, treatment is mostly successful with the exception of the misalignment of teeth, rejection that can occur, and the fact that implanted crowns may fall out after insertion if the bone underneath deteriorates.
In conclusion, dental stem cells are showing a promising future for patient treatment. At the moment, with dental treatment having developed over the years and still not finding vast improvement, it is hard to see where new research will be able to take us. At the moment, dental treatment is highly successful and even greatly satisfying for the patient due to the large number of aesthetic options available. But if research in this area is moved further and is available for a wider use for all patients, the patient satisfaction will greatly improve along with the oral health of the general community.
Arya Bhatt, Youth Medical Journal 2021
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