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Science & Technology

UTHSC Studies Tooth Regeneration To Save Children's Teeth

A new study that uses stem cells to regenerate teeth is underway at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. 

The study is looking at restoring the life of a damaged tooth and bringing the practice to the forefront as the go-to treatment to replace standard root canals, which cause affected teeth to die. 

Dr. Anibal Diogenes, assistant professor of endodontics at the UT Health Science Center, said children are at risk for serious problems with their teeth, especially the front teeth.

"They could have damage to the tooth - tooth caries or trauma. Kids are skateboarding and riding bicycles and life happens. So if the pulp of the tooth becomes damaged or infected, that tooth has a very poor prognosis," Diogenes said. 

When a child loses a tooth, the remaining teeth shift, affecting function and even normal development of the facial structure.

In the procedure, instead of using an inert filler to simply prevent another infection after a root canal, the endodontist inserts the patient’s own stem cells to induce regeneration.

"This cutting-edge technology that we have will allow teeth that otherwise would have had limited alternatives - meaning either extraction or conventional root canal therapy - have now another chance in acting and feeling normal," Diogenes said. "And that's the main thing, is that we'll take care of the disease but in addition to that, we hope to make that tooth act and function just like any normal tooth, like nothing ever happened to it."

The procedure is already accepted by the American Dental Association and has been in sporadic use since 2001, but Diogenes hopes the study will establish it as a landmark so that regeneration becomes the standard of care for children’s teeth. 

UTHSC is pre-screening patients now for the study. Interested participants can call 210-567-3355 for enrollment information.