Are There Stem Cells in Teeth?
Could it be that your teeth may someday save your life?
There are stem cells in teeth! Dare I mention mesenchymal stem cells? Yes! Within your teeth are potent stem cells that could help with both medical and dental conditions. When people hear ‘stem cells’ they may think of fetal tissues or the questionable harvesting of cells from a placenta or embryo. Actually, stem cells are found in many places in our bodies such as in the blood, in bone marrow, muscles, and in fatty tissue. The broken tooth here may contain healthy stem cells – do we save them?
Harvesting stem cells from extracted teeth sounds futuristic and even off. However mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are located within the pulp chambers of vital teeth – teeth that are alive. This is not true for decayed, and infected teeth that are extracted for say an abscess, but is true for teeth that are extracted for orthodontic treatment or the removal of wisdom teeth due to lack of space.
Multipotent MSCs – think of these as ‘Superman MSCs’ can be altered to change into other tissues such as muscle, tendons, blood, nerve tissue and even bone! Maybe someday we will be able to grow new teeth from your own cells. Based on an article by Mark Malterud, DDS, MAGD “Mesenchymal stem cells: the marriage of minimally invasive biomimetic dentistry with medicine.” General Dentistry magazine in the November/December 2017,
“There are between 2 and 4 million of these cells in each vital tooth from donors aged 13 – 25 years; the numbers begin to decrease after the age of 25 years.”
That’s still a lot of cells in a single extracted tooth! There are even MSCs in the periodontal ligament that holds teeth in the bone. Because these cells are formed during very early development, they can be differentiated into the specific cells needed. The thought presented in this article is that is we harvest and save these cells, we may be able to prevent the more invasive harvesting of stem cells for some purpose in the future.
Already in dentistry we can draw a small amount of your blood during a surgery, spin it down, and take the platelet-rich plasma to use for improving our success with your bone or tissue graft. We may even be able to bring new life to a tooth requiring a root canal!
Already in the US, several companies process and cryogenically store MSCs from dental pulps. The dentist would need to have a special processing kit to use once it was determined that the tooth needing to be extracted was indeed viable.
- Determine tooth viability
- Sign forms
- Careful extraction
- Your tooth is placed in a special container in a transport medium
- Container is sealed and shipped overnight super express in ice
- Once received the tooth is ‘processed’
- Tissue is broken into very small pieces
- Pieces are suspended in a flask
- Cells are grown and allowed to multiply
- MSCs cells are separated from others that were also there
- Dental pulp MSCs grow readily in standard culture media
- Once there are ’enough’ good cells, they are frozen to a super cold temperature where they will remain until needed.
So, the patient has this source of cells for a future need such as an injury or disease. You would call the storage facility (this article mentioned Tooth Bank, BioEden, Stem Save, and Store-A-Tooth), request that your stem cells be delivered to the dentist, doctor, or clinic where they can be processed, or the storage facility could modify the cells as needed. Your MSCs could potentially be influenced to create the specific tissues that just might save your life, or just make it better.
Sometimes I just like to share interesting stories. This blog is for you dear reader of blogs! Our office is in the Grand Valley on the Western Slope of Colorado and we serve patients from Grand Junction, CO, Palisade, CO, Fruita, CO; Clifton, CO and surrounding communities. Please call our office (970) 242-3635 if you need a general or cosmetic dentist. We would love to see you!
Yours for better dental health,
Julie Gillis DDS, AAACD
Restoring Teeth/Restoring Smiles