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Is it Possible to Regrow Teeth?

Ashwini Kulkarni Sule Nov 20, 2018
Everyone, adults and children alike, dread their visits to the dentist. Some might call them torturous. But, recent advancements in dental research suggest that the nightmarish visits may soon be a thing of the past, due to the emergence of tooth regeneration technologies.

Did You Know?

It is estimated that an average American might lose about 8 of his teeth by the time he/she reaches the age of 50.
Cavities, unhygienic oral habits, and injury are the main culprits for the loss of teeth. To overcome this loss, dentures, dental implants, and root canals are the only current solutions. While dentures erode the underlying bone, tooth implants can come off after a few years of use, and root canals are extremely painful.
Thus, these options are definitely not ideal in the long run. But, given the fact that we humans are only blessed with two sets of teeth, how are these lost teeth to be replaced. Obviously, your own natural teeth can be the best replacement, but is it even possible? 
The idea of regrowing one's teeth does sound exhilarating, and although some of the technologies for this purpose have been developed, they are still far from being practically implemented. Let us find out about these revolutionary techniques.

How to Regrow Teeth

There are several possible methods of regrowing teeth. Unfortunately, all these technologies are still in their infancy. There are various studies and researches going on in various parts of the world, all attempting to regrow a full size tooth.
Although, most experiments have yielded satisfactory results, it will be some time before these technologies are ready to be used on humans. Given here are some of the major techniques of regrowing teeth.

Gene Alteration

All of us lose our milk teeth in childhood and grow a permanent set of teeth. However, if you lose any of these permanent teeth, you cannot grow back the lost teeth in your entire life (although, incidences of people regrowing their teeth after completing 100 years of age have been reported!).
It has been found that a gene present in human beings prevents formation of additional teeth. In the absence of this gene, we all can develop backup teeth like the ones sharks possess. A study showed that mice who lacked this gene grew an extra tooth next to their first molar. 
Many non mammals develop backup teeth, mostly due to the absence of this gene. Thus, this gene could be altered so that humans can regrow backup teeth. However, the implications of altering this gene are yet to be understood. Hence, it would be wrong to assume that this technique may come into practice in the near future. 

Stem Cells

Stem cells are the most talked about thing in the field of genetic engineering these days. They can be manipulated to create almost any organ/tissue in human beings. The technique for regrowing teeth in humans makes use of stem cells that can be manipulated with right molecular cues, so as to create the desired tissue.
These molecular cues would include the basic building blocks required to generate dental tissue, as well as signaling molecules that would encourage and induce the stem cells to produce the desired end product. These cells can then be transplanted back into the same person, so as to counter minimal rejection issues.
After the cells have been transplanted at the desired site or cavity, they can be left alone to grow into full sized teeth. Stem cells from bone marrow and dental gums are considered most appropriate for such kind of experiments. 
However, the process of extraction of stem cells from bone marrow is highly painful. Attempts are being made to facilitate easy and painless extraction of stem cells. Needless to say, we are anxious to see its practical applications soon.

Ultrasound Technology

This is an innovative yet simple technique which brings about teeth regrowth via the use of low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS). In this technique, the ultrasound device is used to send ultrasound pulses in and around the jaw.
These pulses stimulate the jaw and gums to repair and regrow the affected or lost tooth. This technique works on the principles of massage. This technique has been successful in regenerating teeth in the case of rabbits. This seems to have a potential to hit markets in the near future.

Laser Technology

It is a recently developed technology, that combines the properties of stem cells with that of low-powered lasers. It was developed by a team of researchers at Harvard University, when teeth were molar tissue was stimulated to regrow teeth in the cases of mice. This technique works by stimulating the dental stem cells with the use of a focused laser beam.
The beam activates the stem cells and induces them to activate the teeth repair pathways, results in the formation of tooth tissue, which would eventually result in a newly formed tooth. This technique has yet to be refined and tested as to whether similar results are obtained in human dental tissues.
The development of just any one of these technologies would spread a wave of relief throughout anyone contemplating dental surgery or tooth replacement. But till these techniques are refined and suitably adapted, we still must endure the painful ministrations of the dentist, in order to have a perfect set of pearly whites!