Every man essentially gets two types of teeth in their lifetime – primary teeth and permanent teeth. Infants start to develop their teeth when they are around six months old. These teeth are called milk teeth, baby teeth, or deciduous teeth and are usually 20 in number. They will start to fall off by the age of six to give way for permanent teeth. All these steps occur naturally and don’t need any external support.
But sometimes, one may lose one or more of their permanent teeth because of disease or trauma. Thanks to the developments in the field of dentistry, various tooth replacement options are now available to restore our mouth’s functionality and appearance. However, dental scientists are still on their quest to find out new, innovative possibilities regarding dental care.
At Tufts School of Dental Medicine, scientists are harvesting stem cells to grow new teeth and jaw bones. These universal cells are obtained from the inside of healthy adult teeth, and they differentiate into tooth buds. But this complex procedure of cellular differentiation only occurs under circumstances that replicate an embryonic jaw. Growth hormones and nutrients must facilitate development at precisely the correct times. Due to these reasons, it is not possible to grow a new tooth in a petri dish. Instead, they need a precise framework and conducive conditions, and the Tufts researchers are on a quest to design it as well.
The research team at Tuft recently made a cellular matrix where they successfully implanted a tooth bud into a pig’s jaw. Here, it was possible to develop early adult-stage teeth within five months of time. But the challenge is, we are not technologically advanced yet for the transfer from pigs to humans. However, these developments indicate options once thought to be impossible.
Meanwhile, as of now, dental implants offer the nearest alternative to growing new teeth in terms of appearance and functionality. The titanium metal rods placed into the jawbone resemble the tooth root on the top of which life-like porcelain crowns are placed. And various researches have impacted dental implant technology, too, improving the success rate of the procedure.
A Cavity Disappearing Act
Another fascinating development in dental research concerns dental fillings that encourage teeth to fix and repair their own damage. Unlike the conventional cases where the decayed parts of teeth are drilled out and restored using tooth restoration materials, researchers at Nottingham and Harvard University have developed a filling material that encourages stem cells to grow dentin, the tooth’s inner layer. The scientists have also displayed the ability to grow and restore the pulp, the internal nerve, and blood vessel center of the teeth.
In short, though we may need to wait a few years more to get maximum benefits from these regenerative procedures, it is true that these developments could revolutionize the treatment of many common dental conditions.
For more information, schedule an appointment with Dr. Peter Yeh, DDS at Covington Signature Dentistry. Call our dental office at (253) 638-9955.