In one of our previous articles, we’ve talked about how the prospects of regenerating pulp tissue can potentially help people with necrotic and traumatized teeth, and how within the next ten years, new tissue growing methods can eventually help regrow immature teeth. However, regenerative medicine can contain multiple possibilities, and one of the most vital places of research less talked about among dentistry is the prospect of stem cell therapy. Stem cell therapy can potentially be the method used for reconstituting dental pulp and restoring tooth health when working within the root canals.
In the past few years, numerous studies regarding stem cells and tissues have contributed to better treatment options for patients and helped develop what many know as regenerative endodontics. Today, we’re looking into how stem cell therapy may change the way regenerative endodontics works and talk about some of the current developments in this field of research.
What is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cells are a unique component of our bodies, as they’re the driving aspect of our healing process. Stem cells are the core functioning cells that other types of cells, such as white blood cells and pancreatic cells, develop from and gain their functions. These cells are sourced from various areas, including embryos, adult bone marrow, and the umbilical cord. In some cases, altering adult cells to contain embryonic properties. Because of their sources and state of development, stem cells are technically immature cells, and for researchers, they are a fascinating place of research because these minute cells can provide:
- Increased understanding of disease development: Medical researchers working within their field can gain a better understanding of how stem cells mature in cells that maintain our bones, muscles, nerves, and other tissues. Through this innovation, these researchers can ultimately better understand how diseases develop to these affected cells and potentially find treatments.
- Potentially replace diseased cells with healthy ones: As one of the most crucial aspects of this field, stem cells have the ability to replace diseased or damaged tissues. In our previous article, we discussed the process of regrowing damaged pulp with stem cells and restoring the affected tooth’s health.
- Test new drugs for effectiveness and safety: For testing drug safety, researchers sometimes use stem cells to observe the direct impact the drug will have before approving and administering it to the public. To perform this properly, the stem cells tested would need to be tissue-specific to be studied.
So, how does this concept apply to endodontics? Stem cell therapy sets out to promote the repair response for diseased and dysfunctional tissues and then are implanted into the affected area to be regenerated. In many ways, stem cell therapy is already being implemented through bone marrow transplants to help repair cells damaged by chemotherapy or autoimmune diseases and has helped people fight off some types of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
However, research is still ongoing in these areas due to the current limitations of stem cells and their use. The intention of stem cell therapy is to transform the direct stem cells into the specific cell type needed to begin the regeneration process. However, due to their irregularity in growth and spontaneous transference of type, these cells tend to be difficult to control. These cells can also potentially trigger an immune system response, causing the body to attack the stem cells as foreign invaders similar to viruses and bacteria, and the complications behind this response still remain unknown to many researchers, making this field of study highly undeveloped and needing more research for certainty and safety reasons.
How Can Stem Cell Therapy Transform Endodontics?
The potential of stem cell therapy is astounding on multiple levels, and for endodontists, stem cell therapy has the ability to resolve cases of tooth trauma and decay by revitalizing and revascularizing previous necrotic pulp tissues and providing immature teeth the ability to complete their development. For instance, various studies performed on these cases have shown the possibilities that come with stem cell therapy, including:
- Studies from the Journal of Endodontics have reported that through treating children’s immature teeth with periradicular periodontitis, went forward with stem cell therapy as a conservative treatment without the use of canal instrumentation, through endodontic implementation, found that the stem cells grew around the tooth root, regenerating new root tissue and saved their natural teeth.
- Other studies have found that in cases of adult teeth with severe pulpitis, stem cells were transferred into the affected pulp areas, and through a period of 24 weeks, regenerated tissue was present and appeared similar to the appearance of normal dental pulp untreated, implying that complete pulp regeneration may be a possibility.
- Alongside that, patients with pulp necrosis and apical periodontitis that were treated with the experimental plasma-derived stem cells provided stem cell regeneration of the dentin-pulp areas and showed 100% clinical efficacy with no adverse events reported after a 12 month follow up.
Although stem cell therapy offers these opportunities, it is still limited in its scope. As of right now, treatments for affected, fully developed root channels haven’t been thoroughly explored due to the current limitations of stem cell treatment. When it comes to treating patients with complex dentin-pulp conditions, the origin of the stem cells, the size of the lesions, the bionics of the tissues have to be considered in every case to track down the results of regenerated dentin-pulp to assure its safety and effectiveness for patients.
Even while these treatments are still limited, reports from the American Association of Endodontists show that its a promising therapy that can potentially reduce the costs associated with root canal treatment and help provide more conservative methods for tooth restoration. Tooth restoration may potentially move beyond the use of gutta-percha fillings and tooth extractions and ultimately transform the way our bodies respond to oral diseases through these healing processes. It’s an exciting venture, and while many of today’s endodontists continue to experiment with these results, stem cell therapy shows promise in saving more teeth and impacting patients’ lives.