Is Regrowing Teeth and Tooth Structure A Reality?
Many of my patients ask me when are we going to be able to grow new teeth to replace missing ones. The best way to avoid pondering this question is to take good care of your teeth, but many people lose teeth all of the time through no fault of their own, and many people have congenitally malformed and missing teeth. For those individuals who have dental problems, the best advice is always to practice prevention and healthy lifestyles. It may not even matter which health practices people choose. There are studies that people who regularly go to health food stores are healthier in general, regardlless of what they are actually purchasing. (1) You can read more about this phenomenon in my previous post. Specifically, keeping your teeth will lead to improved quality of life, less medication and less frailty later in life. (2)
There are a few researchers who are studying new tooth regrowth and new tooth structure regeneration. Ten years ago, one group implanted a tooth bud in the jaw of a mouse and the tooth formed inot the correct shape, had full functionality, and innervation. (3) This is very impressive, and shows great promise for the future. Dr. Praveen Arany is a pioneer in the use of lasers to help stimulate healing. He uses currently available lasers to stimulate the growth of new dentin (the primary hard tissue that teeth are made of) in damaged teeth. (4) Another study proved that dentin could be stimulated to grow much more rapidly than normal by placing the Alzheimers drug called Tideglusib into cavities. (5)
Just like every rose has its thorn, there are large drawbacks to the future implications of these studies. The study where a tooth bud was implanted into the jaw of a mouse has promise, but is has several drawbacks. The first is that it is an invasive surgery. The second is that it takes months and months for teeth to grow. Lastly, it requires taking a forming tooth from another mouse. The first two problems are normal when considering modern medical and dental proceedures. It already requires surgery and many months to replace a tooth using implants. The last problem is an ethical concern, as traficing in body parts is dubious. Keep in mind that organ donation is common, ethical and legal. Incidentally, there is promise that stem cells can be harvested from baby teeth that have fallen out naturally. (6)
The second study lasers has promise, but under scrutiny it is not a substitute for fillings and crowns. The lasers enhanced the ability of the nerve within the tooth to generate inward growth of dentin. Plainly speaking, this means that the damaged tooth structure remains damaged and the nerve receeds from the damage by making dentin and shrinking. This process is natural, and happens in all of us. You can read more about this in my previous post. It is just sped up by the lasers. The implications are that it may lead to decreasing tooth sensitivity and be an alternative to root canal treatment. This is a really exciting as most of my new patients come to me because they are in pain.
The last study that used the Alzheimers drug to grow dentin has the same drawbacks as the laser study. It stimulated the nerve in the tooth to receed inwardly. Again, this study could lead to the extinction of root canal treatment.
You may think that I am dismissing the current lines of research in this post, but I am very excited about them for the reason that it is always better to replace missing body parts with natural materials. The more natural, the better. A tooth should be made of all of the tissues and cells natural to the human body, not titanium and porcelain. Right now, replacing teeth and lost tooth structure is still going to require man made materials, but the treatment of pain and the possibility of doing away with root canal treatment seems within our technological grasp. Time will tell. In the meanwhile, please take good care of your teeth: eat right, brush, floss and visit your dentist regularly.