The practice of dentistry has come a long way since the ancient civilizations used crushed pumice to clean their teeth. Over the past century new technologies have developed that allow dentists to replace teeth, to move teeth “invisibly,” and whiten teeth in one appointment. As we move into 2017, there is only good news in dentistry. The capabilities of a dentist are expanding exponentially, and this year we are excited about all the things we have to look forward to. Although these breakthroughs will take many years of research and development before they are available to the public, they are very exciting to think about.
In a study published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, researches detailed how different wavelengths of lasers can penetrate gum tissue to eradicate bacterial colonies. Using computer simulations and mathematical models based on optical characteristics of gum tissue and bacteria, researchers were able to show that the use of lasers could be a game-changing method of killing bacteria deep within a patient’s gums. These simulations proved that 810 nm diode lasers can kill bacteria that is 3 mm deep inside the gums, and that the 1064 nm Nd:YAG laser could do the same. This is great news because with these simulations, actual trials are now in the works. Currently around 25% of American dental practices have hopped on board with dental lasers to remove decay from teeth and to use for periodontal disease treatments. By tweaking the wavelength of the pulses, these lasers could be utilized in many dental treatment applications. The future usages of dental lasers is exciting because unlike traditional scaling and planing to remove bacterial infections, lasers are minimally invasive and leave the surrounding tissues to heal bacteria free.
Regrowing Dental Pulp
Dental pulp is one of the most important parts of a tooth, it’s the bed of nerves and the blood supply for a tooth. When it becomes infected, it must be removed. As anyone who’s ever had a root canal will tell you, it’s not the most exciting trip to the dentist you’ll ever take. Until now however, the only thing a person could do if their pulp became exposed to harmful bacteria was to undergo a root canal. Recently researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, are finding that tooth stem cells can be delivered to a tooth with collagen-based biomaterial. These stem cells can spur the regeneration of dental pulp and save the tooth from the inside out. The idea to regrow dental pulp instead of removing it would enable dentists to entirely restore a tooth instead of placing a crown or dental implant. Their experiment was quite remarkable. The researchers placed their mixture of human dental stem cells and collagen-based biomaterial inside hollow teeth that had been extracted previously in an unrelated study. Within two weeks the formation of pulp-like tissue began to form in the hollow teeth, after four weeks blood vessels began to appear, at eight weeks the entire tooth was filled with pulp and a complex system of blood vessels.They also observed that the pulp was tightly affixing itself to the dentin of the tooth. This experiment has a long way to go before it proves itself a reliable and predictable treatment. But, it is exciting to think of the end of root canals forever.
No More Cavities
The science of filling cavities began hundreds of years ago with the advent of amalgam, over the past few decades the use of composite resin has overhauled the world of dental fillings. Who would have thought that the next step in filling cavities would be enabling the tooth to regrow itself? There are many studies that are examining the regrowth potential of teeth after decay, but one is particularly promising. A medication approved for use in Alzheimer’s patients, Tideglusib, stimulates the regeneration of stem cells already in the pulp of teeth. Scientists at King’s College of London found that they could soak a collagen-based sponge with this medication and place it in the cavity. Within a few weeks the growth of dentin was triggered, and within six weeks the damage was entirely repaired. The exciting hting about this treatment is that because it is already approved for human use the potential to have this treatment in the hands of dentists very soon.
Although all of these therapies are in the beginning stages of research and development, it’s exciting to think to the future. While we wait for the bacteria killing lasers and cavity-repairing medications we can help to prevent and treat cavities with composite resin and teaching our patients how to properly practice oral hygiene. If you are excited about the future of dentistry like we are, call us to set up an appointment today. We can clean your teeth with our existing technology and “geek out” about the marvels the future holds for dentistry.