Your health: Repairing teeth with stem cells

  • Could a new type of synthetic biomaterial allow teeth to repair themselves?

    Could a new type of synthetic biomaterial allow teeth to repair themselves? File photo

Posted7/30/2016 7:00 AM

Repairing teeth with stem cells

Walking into a dentist's office could be less of a frightening thing in the future if scientists Kyle Vining of Harvard and Adam Celiz of the British University of Nottingham have anything to do with it, The Washington Post reports.


Since the 1700s, when modern dentistry began to evolve, people have assumed that the parts of teeth damaged by cavities were gone for good and that there was nothing to be done except drill out the decay and fill the remaining tooth with some kind of enamel or metal.

That entire paradigm is changing.

Vining and Celiz recently won a prize in the Royal Society of Chemistry's emerging technology competition for creating a synthetic biomaterial that stimulates stem cells native to your teeth to repair them. That's right: The substance appears to somehow make that area regenerate pulp tissue and the critical bony material of your tooth known as dentin.

Celiz said that, in the future, all fillings could be made of this material so that damaged teeth could repair themselves, potentially ending the era of root canals, according to Popular Science.

Baby teeth contain clues about toxins

Baby teeth may soon be worth a lot more than the sentimental value they offer nostalgic parents.

It turns out that these teeth store a unique type of health record, with the potential to reveal everything that an individual has been exposed to, including environmental toxins such as lead and pesticides, and stress hormones produced by the baby in utero, The Washington Post reports.

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Manish Arora, an environmental epidemiologist and exposure biologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, explains that teeth form rings as they grow -- just as trees do, but daily instead of annually -- and each ring contains information about exposures that occurred on the day it was formed. Using specialized equipment, he has developed ways to analyze what's contained in those rings.

"I often describe (teeth)," he said, "as biologic hard drives."

Arora's work is part of an emerging field of study focused on the exposome, a term coined in 2005 to refer to the totality of health-affecting exposures that a person experiences.

Researchers say the studying of the exposome could dramatically alter how we assess health.

Through a fingerprick of blood, for example, a doctor eventually may be able to analyze what an individual has been exposed to and use that information to help determine health risks linked to or caused by those exposures. By revealing exposures that occur during fetal development and throughout childhood, the baby teeth may provide the earliest and most extensive window into how environmental factors influence health.

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