Tooth loss, and associated jaw bone loss, is a major health challenge encountered in Dental Clinics each day and is a significant public health issue that imposes a high emotional, social, and economic burden on individuals. Tooth loss is a highly prevalent disease, affecting more than 158 million people worldwide. The current standard of care in dentistry to replace missing teeth is the use of synthetic dental implants and fixed or removable prosthetics. While successful in some cases, the currently available treatment options are inferior to natural teeth. Complications for currently used dental implants can include tissue and bone loss around the implant, implant fracture, alveolar bone fracture, gingival recession, alveolar bone loss, and infection.
The long-term goal of this project is to create biological tooth substitutes that can eventually be used in the dental clinic as an alternative replacement tooth therapy in humans. The ability to 3D print human dental pulp stem cells (hDPSCs) within a hydrogel bioink system developed by TR&D 2 could allow for exquisite control over the size and shape of the bioengineered tooth bud. This capability makes the bioengineered tooth bud model highly attractive for clinically relevant applications in a wide variety of patients. Also, the ability to bioengineer living replacement teeth would be a significantly improved therapy as compared to currently used state-of-the-art, synthetic, titanium implant tooth replacements. Bioengineered teeth have the potential to be innervated and vascularized, providing sensory capabilities not possible in currently used tooth replacement therapies. Hydrogel bioink systems also exhibit potential applications for dental pulp regeneration, as an alternative to currently used endodontic therapy which kills the tooth and could also facilitate regeneration of jaw bone and periodontal ligament tissues. Successful accomplishment of the proposed studies will indicate the potential of 3D-printed porous tooth bud constructs as potential alternatives for tooth replacement therapies.
Images courtesy Yelick Lab, Tufts University