In experiments using lasers on lab rats, scientists say they may have found a way to reverse the death of a tooth — by literally zapping them back to life.

And they say their concept — using laser light to entice the body’s own stem cells into action — may offer enormous promise beyond just dentistry in the field of regenerative medicine.

The researchers used a low-powered laser to coax dental stem cells to form dentin, the hard tissue similar to bone that makes up most of a tooth, demonstrating the process in studies involving rats and mice and using human cells in a laboratory.

They did not regenerate an entire tooth in part because the enamel part was too tricky. But merely getting dentin to grow could help alleviate the need for root canal treatment, the painful procedure to remove dead or dying nerve tissue and bacteria from inside a tooth, they said.

Zap those pearly whites back to life: Although dentists are already using lasers for whitening teeth, removing dead cells prior to fillings or root canals, and even reshaping gums, the new approach actually zaps stem cells present in the dentin layer of the teeth to regenerate itself. If the human clinical trials are successful, this could revolutionise dental procedures and the field of regenerative medicine.