There’s no doubt that the art and science of tooth replacement have come a long way in recent years. When once an individual was forced to live with an embarrassing gap where a tooth used to be, they now have several options for replacement. Dentures, bridges, and dental implants are just a few choices available, and with technological developments, “fake” teeth have never looked so real or been so easy to obtain. Implants could quite possibly be the most popular method of replacing lost or missing teeth. In this common procedure, a titanium implant is placed in the bone and a crown is attached to restore function, occlusion, and esthetics, without having to wear down adjacent teeth. The biggest drawback to this method is the lack of a natural root structure, which can lead to loss of jaw bone around the implant due to friction from eating and other jaw movements. This consequence could become a concern of the past however, according to the recent Medical News Today article that boasts a new method of replacing teeth with a cutting-edge bioengineered material.
Research has recently been published in the Journal of Dental Research that details a new method of replacing teeth with bioengineered material that has been generated from a person’s own gum cells. Professor Paul Sharpe, expert in craniofacial development and stem cell biology at King’s College in London, led the research, which isolated adult human gum tissue from patients at the Dental Institute at King’s College. Scientists then grew more of the tissue in a lab and combined it with the cells of mice that form teeth. The combination of cells was then transplanted into mice where researchers were successful in growing hybrid human/mouse teeth, complete with dentine, enamel and viable roots. Up until now, research in this area has been focused on the generation of immature teeth that mimic those in the embryo that can be transplanted into the adult jaw to develop into functional teeth. While embryonic cells have been shown to produce an immature tooth, it is impractical to use them in general therapy, which is why Sharpe says an adult source of cells in necessary to identify in order to make biotooth formation a real alternative to dental implants. There is still quite a bit of work to be done in making this procedure a reality, but researchers are well on their way to developing the next chapter in restorative dentistry.