Losing teeth as an adult can be scary to think about, but it’s an issue that many people face. Over a quarter of adults lose all their teeth by the age of 74. While dental implants are the best solution current technology has to offer, they have their limitations. However, a new technique might help people to grow new teeth in just 9 weeks using the patient’s own adult stem cells. So many animals on our planet can, why can't we?
Researchers from New York City’s Columbia University Medical Center hope that they can get a patient’s own stem cells to grow an anatomically correct tooth. In addition to that, the new tooth will actually grow in a person’s empty socket, even allowing it to merge with the surrounding gum tissue. They’ve already proven the ability to grow the teeth, though not in humans yet.
According to the Journal of Dental Research, the researchers conducted an experiment using 22 rats. After growth factors were implanted in the rats’ mouths, new bone material regenerated and integrated within 9 weeks. According to the researchers, this is the first time teeth-like structures have been regenerated in a living organism.
If this treatment proves successful in humans, there can be a variety of benefits that come along with the new procedure. Since the tooth is grown in the socket where it will stay, there is also no need to harvest outside stem cells or create an outside environment for the tooth as it grows. Because of this, researchers hope that this will be a more cost-effective solution for patients who can’t afford dental implants. In addition, since the tooth grows right in the mouth, there will likely be less recovery time and it will be less likely for teeth to fail.
For the time being, however, dental implants are the closest thing we have to help people replace lost teeth. Unfortunately, implants can be painful & require a long healing process. That said, this new alternative might become a reality quite soon. Even now, Columbia University has filed patent applications for this new technology and is also looking at ways to make the process commercially available.
Do you think this new procedure will end up helping a lot of people in the long run? Do you hope this technology arrives soon? Let us know in the comments!