Will Dentists Be Able to Regrow Teeth in the Future?
Technology is moving faster and faster as the years go by. Significant advances are being made in major industries, including health and dentistry, and thereby improving the quality of life for individuals all over the world. One particularly exciting area within dentistry is the possibility of regrowing teeth in the near future.
Why Regrow Teeth?
Why could regrowing teeth be good news for dentists and their patients? Consider tooth decay and tooth loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around a quarter of all children in the United States, aged 2 to 5 years old, suffer from tooth decay. That figure rises to 50% when considering young people aged 12 to 19 years old. At the global level, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that tooth decay affects 60% to 90% of school-aged kids, and 100% of adults. This is a sobering reminder of the prolific nature of tooth decay, and its importance, since tooth decay can lead to other more serious oral health problems.
What Are the Options?
The good news is that there is indeed exciting progress being made. Some advances on the dental horizon have the potential to change the way dentists practice. Take the issue of tooth loss. For a very long time, the prevailing knowledge was that people have temporary teeth as kids, and then these teeth are replaced by permanent teeth as they grow older. If a permanent tooth is lost, no new natural tooth will grow in its place. When that happens, the main options are to install a movable or fixed artificial tooth, or to start using dentures. However, science is working on ways for dentists to grow new, natural teeth.
How Are Teeth Regrown?
There are a number of advances aimed at growing new teeth for patients. One approach involves the use of stem cells, reports Carrington.edu. One of the exciting aspects of stem cells is that, under certain circumstances, these special cells can be coaxed into transforming into other kinds of cells. In the field of dentistry, researchers are investigating the viability of generating dental tissue, dental matter, and tooth-like structures from stem cells.
More specifically, researchers at the Nova Southeastern University have been working on extracting stem cells from a person's mouth, mounting these in a polymer structure, and attempting to stimulate the cells so that they will assume the desired tooth structure. Another approach involves lasers. Researchers have found that they can grow dental matter in the teeth of lab rats by using a low power laser.
What Are the Challenges?
While stem cells and lasers offer much promise, there are still real challenges to be overcome. In the case of stem cells, one key obstacle is finding a way to consistently grow these cells into the right kind of structure. This is important because each tooth must assume a certain shape and a certain kind of hardness. As far as lasers are concerned, the problem is one of balance. If the laser is not powerful enough, it will not be able to create the desired effect. However, if it is too powerful, it could damage the surrounding healthy tissue. It remains to be seen how the laser procedure will be improved in order to reliably and consistently achieve that balance.
Once these technologies achieve maturity and commercial application, they could allow many patients to say goodbye to artificial teeth, dentures, and root canals. However, there is still some ways to go. In the meantime, dentists still need to urge their patients to care for their teeth the best way they can—by brushing regularly, flossing regularly, and practicing good oral hygiene overall.