Science + Tech

Can dental decay be reversed?

The sound of drilling on teeth… the fear of the needle before a procedure… the dreaded root canal. Ask most people why they hate the dentist and you’ll probably get one of those answers. Many people avoid the dentist for years just to avoid any of these discomforts. So could the field of dentistry change? Is there a way to reverse the decay process?

According to recent research posted in the journal of Science Translation Medicine, lasers could regrow tooth structure.

photo credit: Bill Selak via Flickr

Research indicates that lasers can actually stimulate stem cells to differentiate into viable tissue. Stem cell research has been gaining popularity in medical applications and is now being explored for the regeneration of tooth structure. In the study, the research team created cavities in rodents by drilling into their teeth. Then they added adult stem cells to the pulp and stimulated them with lasers. After covering the teeth with temporary material, they found that dentin had indeed begun to grow.

More alternatives to traditional dentistry are being discovered even without the use of stem cells. A new technology called “electrically accelerated and enhanced remineraliztion” has been discovered at King’s College London. The decay process occurs when bacteria and sugar sources slowly chip away at tooth structure leaving a cavity in the tooth. This technology uses electrical stimulation to promote the remineralization process. This accelerates the process to prevent the cavity from enlarging and healing the tooth structure. Perhaps tooth decay is reversible!

photo credit: Nigel Pitts/King’s College London

Could these discoveries mean a change in the practice of dentistry? Could these new technologies mean the end of dental phobia? Instead of drilling away tooth structure, research shows that dentists can simply reverse the process. Some of these technologies claim to be only years away from reaching dental offices. Several dental-phobic patients may be happy to know the future of dentistry.

What are some other dental advances you have read or heard about in the news? Does your school or practice use lasers? If so, share your thoughts in the comments below!

~Stephanie Mazariegos, LECOM ’16, District 5 trustee

Stephanie Mazariegos

Stephanie Mazariegos is a third year student and an inaugural class member of LECOM SODM. She loves living in Florida because she can spend her free time at the beach. She also enjoys traveling whenever she gets a chance and might have a slightly unhealthy addiction to Pintrest. She also is a huge Harry Potter fan and loves visiting the new expansion in Universal Studios on her free weekends!!!

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  1. Shelly says:

    What a great article! This can definitely serve as a major advancement in the field.

  2. Jon says:

    Interesting research. Remember, cavitated lesions can be remineralized to slow decay, but if the patient is unable to keep the lesion clean or it is inaccessible, a restoration must be placed. A cavitated lesion in an inaccessible location will act as a trap for biofilm, promoting further decay.

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