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An Emerging Role for Stem Cells in the Dental Industry

A research team from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has developed a way to quadruple the number of stem cells harvested from extracted wisdom tooth root pulp. The stem cells are being studied for their ability to treat a variety of medical conditions.

Tooth roots are especially appealing to scientists and medical researchers because they are home to two types of valuable stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells can become almost any type of cell while multipotent stem cells can become very specific types of cells.

A New Tool for Wisdom Tooth Extraction 

In the past, extracting the wisdom teeth while keeping the pulp in good enough condition to harvest stem cells has been especially challenging. Drilling to the teeth often results in damage to the pulp and very little if any stem cell viability. A member of the UNLV research team designed and created a new tool that holds the tooth in place while scoring the surface and cutting it perfectly in half to grant access to the pulp. The tool is nicknamed the "Tooth Cracker 5000," and when tested on 25 teeth to determine if it would indeed leave the pulp undamaged and uncontaminated, it had a 100 percent success rate with 80 percent of the extracted cells viable. The team’s new tool had quadrupled the number of viable stem cells over an average extraction process.

Stem Cell Therapy 

Although stem cell therapy isn’t technically a new arena in the medical world, it’s evolving rapidly and has recently become one of the most talked-about subjects in the medical community. Research into using one’s own adult stem cells to stimulate the healing process in the body has taken front stage, with much less controversy than there has been in the past with embryonic stem cell research.

Adult stem cells can be found in just about any living tissue in the body.

"It’s not hard to find stem cells," said Dr. David Buck, DDS, founder of Balance Epigenetic Orthodontics in Lynwood, Washington. "The challenge is in finding enough of them to use in treatments and extracting it in a way that preserves the cells."

Although Buck is not an advocate of extracting teeth unless absolutely necessary, he believes wisdom teeth are a great place to start when it comes to stem cells in dentistry, as a majority of those removed are healthy with viable roots.

"I don’t think you should ever remove a healthy tooth without a really good reason," he said. "But if they do need to be removed, it just makes sense to use them to heal other problems."

Wisdom tooth removal is a very common procedure, with more than 5 million adults in the United States having had theirs removed. Instead of extracting these teeth and simply disposing of them, they could become a very valuable source of healing in the future, Buck said.

 

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