Researchers from South Korea and Japan to the U.S. and United Kingdom have been working on how to coax stem cells into regenerating pulp. The process is still in its early stages, but if successful, it could mean a reduction or even elimination of the need for painful root canals.
Dental stem cells can be harvested from the pulp tissue of the wisdom and other types of adult teeth, or baby teeth. They can produce both the hard tissues needed by the tooth, like bone, and soft tissues like the pulp, says Dr. D’Souza.
She and colleagues at Baylor and Rice University focused on regrowing pulp using a small protein hydrogel. The gelatin-like substance is injected into the tooth and serves as a base into which pulp cells, blood vessels and nerves grow.
In a study published in November, they were able to demonstrate pulp regeneration in human teeth in a lab. They will soon be testing hydrogel on live dogs. In addition, they are looking at the potential of the hydrogel to calm dental inflammation.