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How do the science of dentistry and stem cells go together?  Stem cells have long been debated in the public forum, usually in regards to cloning an individual or animal, not generally thought of in regard to teeth. This type of science brings up both ethical concerns and advancements in research with clinical applications in a whole host of areas. Stem Cells are  unspecialized cells that have the capacity to replicate themselves as well as the ability to produce highly specific cells needed for different types of tissue formation. These stem cells have been harvested from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood cells, and adipose tissues.

Possible Use Of Stem Cells In Dentistry

Recent research has proven that the tissues that form teeth, (odontogenic tissue) are a viable source of  stem cells ( Mesenchymal stem cells or MSC’s). The research has shown that the very core of the tooth (the dental pulp) especially in third molars and baby teeth, (deciduous teeth) that are getting ready to fall out, are the preferred teeth for stem cells. At this time there are millions of these teeth being surgically removed or falling out on their own every year. The potential of these cells goes untapped as they are simply discarded. These stem calls might have the ability to help individuals suffering from diseases such as, type 1 diabetes, muscular dystrophy, parkinson’s disease, and possibly spinal cord injuries. The stem cells are also being studied to see which type of useful tissues can be grown and used in repair.

In dentistry, these stem cells have not yet been proven to develop new teeth but have given some hope to dentists offering regenerative medicine to their patients. This can include the following:

-Alveolar Bone Regeneration – Allows bone regrowth in areas where bone has been lost. This can give hope to patients who have lost teeth and bone. The ability to receive dental implants can restore lost function and esthetics.

-Periodontal Tissue Regeneration – This can allow the dentist the ability to replace lost diseased tissues with healthy natural tissues thus restoring an individuals periodontal state to a healthy one.

Regenerating lost teeth with stem cells is a very difficult proposition with many hurdles to overcome. These include a unique challenge for researchers because the stem cells must be stimulated to grow the proper mixture of hard tissue, dentin and enamel, while developing into the correct size and shape. The other issue is developing teeth that have proper nerve stimulation and blood supply.

Stem Cells Collection

The silver lining in stem cell use in dentistry might be the fact that  primary teeth, which simply fall out on their own, are a major source of stem cells for future use. So, these can simply be collected and saved when they fall out with little or no discomfort to the patient.  Since you could potentially save your own child’s teeth, there would be virtually no chance of genetic rejection of the cells if needed later in life by them.

At this time there are a few laboratories nationwide that are accredited with the collection and storage of teeth for possible use at a later date. These laboratories include StemSave, BioEden, and Store-A-Tooth.

Stem Cell Conclusion

While still in its infancy, research in stem cells is developing some real promise in the science of dentistry. Teeth have been regenerated in mice and monkeys but humans will take far more work and research. If research is allowed to continue at its current pace, in the decades to come we can see some real changes in how we deal with systemic diseases as well as tooth loss. The diseases that stem cells can potentially cure or place in remission can be truly limitless. These diseases may include, leukemia, cancer, and even possibly diabetes.

Many people assume that a baby’s teeth  are not important to care for because they will fall out eventually. This is simply not so. Not only can breakdown of these primary teeth cause severe discomfort and infection to your child, they can also have far reaching consequences into adulthood. As a matter of fact, in many ways, the primary teeth are just as important as the permanent teeth. Below are the top reasons why!

Caring For Your Child’s Teeth

-Function. The primary function for any tooth whether it be primary or permanent is to chew and break down food for nutrition. Without teeth, it becomes extremely difficult to eat most hard, crunchy, healthy foods. No one wants their child to suffer the pain or embarrassment of tooth loss due to decay or infection. It may take years for the next tooth to emerge and allow him or her to eat properly again.

-Development. Our teeth are essential in the development of a growing child. The growth of the jaws are triggered by the teeth. The teeth give the body a guide with which to grow from. Without this guide, there could be significant growth issues of the face, jaw, and bite. Also, without the primary teeth as space holders, the permanent teeth will have no room to enter into the mouth and cause crowding issues which can lead to periodontal disease, tooth decay, and occlusion issues. Some of these problems may be correctable with orthodontics (braces) and possibly a retainer, but some require further tooth loss, and possibly surgery. Most of these corrective measures are quite expensive. Taking the time to care for the baby teeth to prevent these problems is a far less costly and helps keep your child healthy.

-Preventing Pain and Discomfort. Tooth decay is quite prevalent in today’s American child. This can be easily prevented with proper dental hygiene maintenance and a healthy diet. When tooth decay does occur, it is best to get it fixed right away,when it is small, and before the child even notices it. Tooth decay can progress quite quickly if left untreated, especially in primary(baby) teeth. If left untreated, tooth decay will cause pain, infection, and discomfort to your child as well as a more expensive option to repair (like tooth extraction, baby root canal or a stainless steel crown).

Infections in the baby teeth can lead to long term problems in the gums.  Infections can also  cause problems with the development of the permanent teeth.

-Learning Tool. Baby teeth are the ultimate training ground for your children. It gives them a chance to learn good oral hygiene that will carry over into adulthood. Teaching them proper techniques and habits will be a lesson that will serve them well as they grow older into adulthood and beyond. These habits should include brushing, flossing, rinsing with an anti bacterial mouthwash, choosing healthy snack and meal options, and visiting the dentist at least twice a year.

Conclusion

Baby teeth are often misunderstood in their role of development. They are very important in a child’s development and should be treated with the utmost care. With proper care, a child will be proud of their smile, and have easy, fun, informative dental visits. If issues do arise, they should be treated early. The dentist and parents should be partners in a child’s dental care.

In the past, orthodontics was routinely an early teen event that began once all of the baby teeth were gone and permanent teeth were in. Recent advances in the understanding of a child development as well as modern materials have re-evaluated the time for orthodontic treatment to an earlier age. It is now recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists that every child should receive an orthodontic evaluation by age 7. But Why?

Common Orthodontic Problems Found At Age 7

1. Buck Teeth. Do the upper front teeth stick way out of line?

2. Deep Bite. Do the upper teeth cover the lower teeth?

3. Underbite. Do the upper teeth fit inside the arch of the lower teeth?

4. Open Bite. Do only the back teeth touch when biting down?

5. Crowded or overlapped teeth. Do the teeth have too much or too little space in certain areas?

6. Misaligned front teeth. Do the spaces between the upper two front teeth and lower two front teeth not line up?

7. Crossbite. Do the lower teeth fit properly inside the upper teeth?

8 .Missing teeth. If there are baby teeth that never developed, there will not be a permanent tooth to follow. Jaw x-rays may also find that certain permanent teeth are not  presently formed or are unable to come down on their own.

9. Extra teeth. When there are double teeth, extra teeth or malformed teeth.

Generally, orthodontic treatment does not begin at age 7 but it is good to get a head start to avoid any complications down the road. However, early orthodontic treatment may be necessary before age 7 if the following appear:

-Problems Speaking

-Proper Chewing Is Difficult

-Abnormal bite development

-Clicking or popping in the jaw

-Permanent teeth that are erutping into the mouth crowded or overlapped

-A thumb sucking problem

-A teeth grinding problem

-Issues biting cheeks or biting into the roof of the mouth

Benefits Of Early Orthodontic Treatment

Early orthodontic evaluation provides both timely diagnosis of problems and increased opportunity for more effective treatment. Early intervention gives the ability to guide growth and development, preventing more serious issues later. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.

Early orthodontic treatment is also referred to as interceptive treatment or Phase I treatment. Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment include the following:

-Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth

-Creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth

-Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth

-Preserving space for teeth that are coming in

-Reducing the need for tooth removal

-Reducing Phase II treatment time with braces

Phase II orthodontic treatment begins when all of the permanent teeth erupt and usually involves a full set of braces and not just a localized treatment plan.

Orthodontic Conclusion

While not every child will need early orthodontic treatment, it is best to know in advance what the options will be going forward. It is important to remember, orthodontics is not strictly a cosmetic endeavor, bite alignment is the ultimate goal. The issues presented above can all be corrected fairly easily if done in a phased approach. However, allowing this early intervention time to pass can complicate treatment requiring more extreme measures (i.e. teeth removal or surgery) to fulfill the same goal.

In today’s modern world, dentistry comes in all forms. How do you know which dentist is right for you and your growing family? There are various specialties in dentistry and many of them overlap between different populations of patients. This overlap is very pronounced between family dentists and pediatric dentists. If you have  children, do you choose a dentist for yourself and a different one for your children?

What Is Family Dentistry?

Family dentists are trained to treat patients of all ages. Family dentists care for your child’s baby teeth, older child’s mixed dentition, adult teeth, and senior dental care. Everyone in the family going to the same dentist can be quite convenient. A child can become easily acclimated to the family dentist by simply watching and modeling another family member. It is usually a very easy transition.

Family dentistry provides preventative dental care, such as regular professional cleanings and oral cancer screenings, and other basic dental care that may be needed. It is important to schedule regular appointments for checkups, so that your dentist can catch any problems before they require the care of a specialist like an oral surgeon or orthodontist. Specialists offer advanced services like treatment of difficult root canals, periodontal surgery, bone surgery, braces, etc. While specialists are still used routinely many of these procedures can be done at the family dental practice. Most dentists will also take x-rays of the teeth on a timely basis to examine for cavities, TMJ problems, diseased tissues, and infection. Your family dentist can fill the cavities, use dental sealants to help to prevent cavities, monitor growth and development to evaluate need for braces, tooth extractions, etc.

If you see your dentist every six months, you will be less likely to have severe breakdown and tooth loss. Your family dentist is trained to help you keep your teeth healthy and can even provide cosmetic dentistry services to keep your smile bright and healthy. Your dentist will educate you and give recommendations for brushing, flossing and rinsing to prevent plaque and tooth decay between appointments. Finding a family dentistry practice that your whole family is comfortable with can take a lot of stress out of making and keeping your regularly scheduled appointments with a variety of dentists.

What Is Pediatric Dentistry?

Where a family dentist will see patients from age 2 to 102, pediatric dentists only see patients from approximately 2 to 18 years old. The pediatric specialty is only related to a young population and does not offer many advanced services of dental care for permanent teeth. Root canals, crowns, impacted teeth, and braces are generally not treated by a pediatric specialist. Many of the services offered do overlap with the family dentist such as x-rays, exams , fillings, sealants, dental cleanings, tooth extractions, baby root canals/crowns, space maintaining appliances. The Pediatric dentists role is important for patients who need specialized care like children with disabilities, those that need sedation, children with severe, full mouth breakdown, and those with behavior issues.

Conclusion

When making the choice between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist, it comes down to you and your child’s comfort levels. Feeling scared or uncomfortable in the exam chair or being scared of the dentist can ruin a child’s confidence and create a situation of dental anxiety or dental phobia. A good dentist, whether family or pediatric, will understand your child’s needs, make the experience a good one, and give great dental treatment. You want a dentist who will  provide a smooth, positive experience so that the little patient is motivated to continue good oral hygiene habits and regular appointments. When she/he is older and has to make health decisions on his/her own, they should have learned to establish a rapport and ease with their dentist. Choose wisely, but realize that a pediatric dentist may or may not be the best choice for your little ones if you have a good family dentist now.

Most family dentists will be happy to see your child even just to meet them and bring them back to get comfortable with the office.If you already have a family dentist that is experienced and willing to take on young children, you may want to start out in this environment to save the the hassle of going between various offices. Selecting a dentist who will treat your child throughout his or her growth has its distinct advantages, and a steady knowledge of patient history is one of them.  Family dentistry is a good choice for many due to the ease of having everyone in the family treated by the same doctor or at least in the same office.

When making any decision for your family it is always best to be informed and have options. There are many dentists with varying personalities, abilities,and skill levels. Find the one that fits you best, and you and your family will be much happier with your choice!