We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

#58 Laser Technique Reverses Tooth Decay

A low-powered laser can stimulate the growth of dentin.

By Gregory Mone
Nov 26, 2014 12:00 AMMay 21, 2019 3:51 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The drill-and-fill approach to fixing cavities may eventually have new competition, thanks to Harvard University biomedical engineer David Mooney and National Institutes of Health assistant clinical investigator Praveen Arany. The pair, along with colleagues, reported in May that they had developed a new technique that stimulates the growth of dentin, the hardened tissue below tooth enamel, through the use of a simple, low-powered laser. 

Arany drilled holes in the teeth of rats, shined a light similar to a laser pointer into the false cavities for five minutes, then capped them. Twelve weeks later, the dentin inside had grown back. By studying the same process in cultured cells, the scientists found that the light stimulated a molecular chain reaction that activated a normally dormant protein called TGF-beta 1. That protein, in turn, prompted nearby dental stem cells to differentiate into dentin-forming cells, which then differentiate into mature dentin. The protein also activates other kinds of stem cells, which means the method could be used to regenerate other tissues.

The technique could combat tooth sensitivity and cavities. “It’s not going to replace the root canal,” Arany says, but you might be able to prevent one in the first place with dentin regeneration.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.