By Mohd Kachlan, D.D.S.
We all know that teeth serve many important functions in our lives. They allow us to eat, speak, and even give us a beautiful smile when they erupt or are aligned in their proper positions. What many of us don’t know, however, is that they contain in and around them, ‘treasures’ that modern Medicine is beginning to discover and apply. A tooth primarily has three major layers: the outermost layer, called Enamel; the layer beneath the enamel called Dentin; and the very central part of the tooth called the Dental Pulp which is a complex of connective tissue, blood vessels, nerve fibers, and odontoblasts(which are cells that mainly help lay down reparative dentin in response to oncoming decay or stimuli).
Dental stem cells are found in the following areas:
- Within the Dental pulp: are referred to as Dental Pulp Stem Cells (DPSCs).
- They are a mesenchymal type of stem cell and have osteogenic and chondrogenic potential.
- In 2008, the first advanced animal study for bone grafting was announced resulting in reconstruction
of large size cranial bone defects in rats with human DPSCs.
- Stem Cells from Human Exfoliated Deciduous Teeth (SHED): stem cells from baby teeth that have fallen
out or from wisdom teeth that have been extracted.
- The types of stem cells present in human exfoliated deciduous teeth are
Adipocytes: Used to treat various spine and orthopedic conditions, Crohn’s disease, cardiovascular, and also be useful in plastic surgery.
Chondrocytes and Osteoblasts: which have been used to grow intact teeth in animals.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs): Have successfully been used to repair spinal cord injury and to restore feeling and movement in paralyzed human patients. They can also be used to treat neuronal degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and other such disorders. MSCs have better curative potential than other type of adult stem cells.
- Stem cells from the Apical Papilla (SCAP): basically from the end of developing roots of teeth
- Periodontal Ligament Stem Cells (PDLSCs): arising from a layer of ligaments that attach the tooth to the bone.
- 5.Gingival Mesenchymal Stem Cells (GMSCs)
From a dental standpoint, these dental stem cells are currently being researched for tissue regeneration (to regenerate healthy gingival tissue), bone regeneration (the ability to grow bone for tooth regeneration and jaw reconstruction), and nerve regeneration.
The primary advantage of these dental stem cells is their relatively easy availability in patients (unfortunately, not those who have extracted all their teeth!). In 2008, surgeons from Spain, transplanted the first tissue-engineered trachea and follow up at five years was very promising. However, these stem cells were obtained from the patient’s bone marrow.
Utilizing dental stem cells involves extracting a tooth (such as wisdom teeth or baby teeth (see toothbank.com)), storing them in very strict conditions (liquid Nitrogen), and then utilizing them on demand. Interestingly, the cost of storing them is not too bad and you could use your HSA or FSA with a letter of medical necessity from your physician ($1500 for 20 years at toothbank.com). However, their potential benefit in the future is beyond imagination….
References available on request