In a groundbreaking study published this week in Science Translational Medicine,
researchers say that a low-powered laser could be the key to creating new tooth growth.
In the lab, the Harvard-led team were able to use lasers to “turn on” a natural healing cycle, which caused dentin to regrow inside teeth. This technology could allow a cavity to essentially “fill itself” back in with healhy tooth tissue, or enable a broken tooth to regrow again.Although the technology has only been tested on rats so far, it is possible that human clinical trials could begin within the year. “There’s potential for this to be broadly useful,” says David Mooney, the paper’s senior author and a Harvard University bioengineer. If the approach works, the implications stretch beyond just avoiding the “drilling and filling” of teeth; the technology might be similarly useful for fighting inflammation, repairing bones, and even regrowing damaged heart tissue.
One of the study’s co-authors, Praveen Arany, explains that the light has to be carefully calibrated in order to deliver an optimal dose. The light, once administered, then begins a chemical reaction within the tooth which leads to the body producing a healing protein known as TGF-beta. “Once [TGF-beta] is activated by the laser, it can bind to stem cells resident in the tissue, and then it induces those stem cells to differentiate so they can proliferate and reform dentin,” explained Mooney in an interview with Fox News. The entire process could be induced with just a five-minute period of exposure to the laser light.
In addition to the useful implications of the laser for filling cavities and even regenerating other organs, it could also be an advantage to dental patients with receding gums. Laser therapy could potentially be used in order to strengthen teeth roots that have become exposed owing to receding gum lines. Though these lasers may provide a way to combat cavities, the important of regular visits to the dentists are the best way to avoid cavities to begin with.
“Regular dental hygiene appointments are very important for many reasons, one being to help decrease amount of unhealthy bacteria in a person’s body,” says C. Michael Sage DDS, Owner and Dentist at Alaska Center for Dentistry.
“The mouth is a haven for bacteria, this destructive bacteria can cause dental decay and periodontal bone loss around teeth.”