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07 February 2024

Stem cells in dentistry

Lara Figini

The characteristics of a stem cell are the potential for multidifferentiation (ability to differentiate into different cell types) and the capacity for self-renewal (ability to generate daughter stem cells and maintain pools of resident stem cells throughout the life of the tissue). We know that most tissues in the oral cavity contain stem cells. Stem cells can be classified in 2 main ways. The first is based on their differentiation potential: totipotent, pluripotent and multipotent stem cells. A totipotent stem cell can form all embryonic cells or extraembryonic tissues in our body. In other words, it can create a completely new organism. The pluripotent stem cell can form all tissues in our body, but cannot differentiate into extraembryonic tissues such as the placenta. A multipotent cell has more restrictions and can only form a specific number of tissues. The second way to classify stem cells is based on their original lineage: hematopoietic, epithelial or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Deregulation of these pathways can lead to disorders including the risk of developing cancer.

Materials and methods

In a descriptive study, published on JADA, December 2023, the authors discussed data from comparative studies and analyzes found in the literature and reviewed articles focused on the identification and characterization of oral stem cells.


All oral tissues, except enamel, dentin and cementum, contain stem cells throughout life. These stem cells self-renew to maintain a pool of cells that can be activated for terminal replacement of differentiated cells (e.g. odontoblasts) or to enable wound healing (e.g. of a dentin bridge in pulp exposures and tissue healing periodontal disease after surgery). Additionally, dental stem cells can differentiate into functional blood vessels and nerves. Early clinical studies demonstrated that transplantation of dental pulp stem cells into disinfected necrotic teeth allowed recovery of dental vitality and vertical and horizontal root growth in immature teeth with incomplete root formation.


From the data of this study, which must be confirmed in other similar studies, it can be concluded that dental stem cells can produce dentin and bones, as well as differentiate into blood vessels and nerves. These results open the door to different applications of these cells in the dental field.

Clinical implications

As a result of these revolutionary discoveries, stem cell banks now also offer services for the cryopreservation of dental stem cells. The future use of stem cells in dental therapies will depend on the collaboration between doctors and researchers to implement projects capable of understanding whether these treatments are safe, effective and clinically feasible.

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