Bulletin of Dental Education

Dental School Research Team Uses Patient Stem Cells to Regenerate Jawbone

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Half of all traumatic injuries to the face result in a loss of teeth and the surrounding tissue and bone that once supported them, making these types of injuries debilitating and difficult to treat. In a new study published in the November 2014 issue of Stem Cells Translational Medicine, doctors at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry (U-M SOD) have found a new way to regenerate a patient’s jawbone through the use of stem cells. The procedure, done under local anesthesia, significantly speeds the healing time relative to traditional bone grafting, and minimizes pain.

Part of a larger clinical trial, the findings focus on a 45-year-old woman missing seven front teeth and 75% of the bone that once supported them. As a result of a blow to her face five years earlier, she was left with severe functional and cosmetic deficiencies and the missing bone made it impossible for her to have dental implant-based teeth replacements.

Darnell Kaigler, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Dentistry in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine, and a lead member of the study team explains the procedure. “In small jawbone defects of the mouth created after teeth were extracted, we placed gelatin sponges populated with stem cells into these areas to successfully grow bone,” says Dr. Kaigler.

Since the sponge material is soft, it does not work in larger areas. Thus, he and his team of researchers decided to try b-tricalcium phosphate (b-TCP) as a scaffold upon which to place the cells. “For treating larger jawbone defects, it is important to have a scaffold material that is rigid and more stable to support bone growth,” he explains.

Using only local anesthesia, they then placed the b-TCP scaffold into the defective area of the mouth, seeding it out with a mixed population of bone marrow-derived autologous stem and progenitor cells 30 minutes prior to treatment at room temperature. Four months later, 80% of her missing jawbone had been regenerated. This allowed them to proceed with placing oral implants that supported a dental prosthesis to once again give her a complete set of teeth.

Study team member Sharon Aronovich, D.M.D., FRCD(C), Clinical Assistant Professor of Dentistry in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the U-M SOD, says, “I am very grateful to all the patients and researchers that participated in this study. Thanks to everyone's efforts, we are one step closer to providing patients with a minimally invasive option for implant-based tooth replacement.”
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