Repairing Damaged Teeth with Stem Cells Proves Successful

Posted on October 1, 2018

The use of stem cells in medical treatments is rapidly growing, but what about using stem cells for dental procedures, too? Recently, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania successfully trialed stem cells as a way to regrow the living tissue found in teeth damaged by injury.

The research could mean new treatments to save injured or diseased teeth. The scientists also believe their research has the potential to treat some systemic diseases.

The study used stem cells collected from injured primary, or “baby,” teeth. When a child suffers an injury to a primary tooth, the permanent tooth below it can also suffer damage to its root development and blood supply.

This damage could result in a “dead” tooth. If the tooth is not dead, conventional dental treatments involve a procedure known as apexification to promote the root development; however, the procedure does not always work and, in some instances, can make the root redevelop abnormally.

There is also no treatment to regrow the lost living tissue from the injury.

The living tissue of teeth includes the dentin, the layer just below the hard, outer tooth enamel, as well as the cementum and the pulp, the part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels.

Before the trial, the study authors identified dental stem cells called human deciduous pulp stem cells (hDPSC) in baby teeth.

The Pennsylvania researchers conducted the first phase of their clinical trial in China on 40 children who had experienced an injury to one of their permanent teeth and retained some baby teeth. The researchers split the participants into two groups; the test group of 30 children in the hDPSC group received treatment with their own dental stem cells, and the control group of 10 children underwent the conventional therapy of apexification.

The participants who received the hDPSC stem cell treatment had healthy tissue extracted from a baby tooth. This tissue was cultured in a lab, and when new cells were created, the researchers then implanted them into injured teeth.

When the researchers checked on the test hDPSC group, they found that the teeth had normal, healthy root development and thickened dentin. They also had increased blood flow compared to before the trial.

They also had increased sensation in the tissue of their injured tooth.

The control group that underwent apexification therapy did not regain sensation in their injured tooth.

The researchers also noticed that if the hDPSC participants re-injured their treated tooth and had it extracted, the transplanted stem cells formed new tissues in the dental pulp, including dentin, connective tissue and blood vessels.

The researchers are encouraged by the results of the trial and hope that to continue their research.

Using stem cell therapy to restore adult teeth in patients who have lost all their baby teeth is not possible, but the researchers are currently testing the use of stem cells from donors to treat adults with damaged teeth.

Using allogeneic, or donor, stem cells has some hurdles, however.

“Taking stem cells from one individual and implanting them in another may mean the risk of rejection and may make treatments ineffective,” said Dr. Joel Singer, a New York stem cell physician.

Stem cell therapy is increasing in popularity around the world as a way to treat a wide range of health conditions including musculoskeletal injuries, autoimmune disease and neurological conditions. Every day stem cell researchers are investigating potential new therapies.

“The ability to take stem cells and regrow tissues, even dental pulp, that were once thought to be gone forever is changing medicine as we know it,” Singer said.


University of Pennsylvania. “Regrowing dental tissue with stem cells from baby teeth.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2018.


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