Historically, there haven’t been many options for replacing dead or damaged teeth. The problematic teeth were pulled out and false teeth or bridges were constructed as a replacement. They were a temporary and often uncomfortable solution, prone to moving in the mouth, causing ulcers and sores and not allowing you to eat a normal diet.
Then dental implants were invented, creating a permanent, stable and life-long fix for missing teeth. While this process is still the gold standard for teeth replacement, we may just be glimpsing into the future of teeth replacement.
The next generation in tooth replacement takes its cue from sharks; lose a teeth, simply grow a new one. Break a tooth? No problems, after some dental wizardry, you could sprout a replacement in just a few months.
Tooth replacement technology is much needed, considering that by age 74, 26% of adults are missing all their permanent adult teeth. A full set of teeth is important for oral health, a good quality of life and an attractive smile.
Growing your own teeth with stem cell technology
Currently, Columbia University is conducting research into growing new teeth in an actual human mouth. This technology is new, but has worked in animals such as rats, and there are promising outcomes in the first human trials. Existing stem cells in the jaw are stimulated using growth promoters, and then a scaffold is built in the mouth that promotes the tooth to grow in a particular shape and direction. In as little as nine weeks, an entire new tooth can grow.
This method of creating permanent teeth is much needed. As well as the numbers of patients needing replacement teeth, the current options have limitations. Not everyone can get dental implants, especially if jawbone density is low or the calcium from the jaw has been reabsorbed into the body. Bridges and prosthetics are far from perfect, and while being more cost effective than dental implants, they move in the mouth and are reasonable brittle.
When will growing your own teeth become reality?
The biggest issue with these emerging technologies is that we still don’t know whether it will be superior to dental implants, and when this kind of treatment will become commercially available. Trials with rats have shown a lot of promise, but there’s human trials needed before the technology can be released to the general public. While the science is good and the rat trials positive, it’s only once human teeth have been shown to grow and remain stable for many years, that the technology will be rolled out across dental practices. While this might one day be the future of teeth replacement, it still could be more than 20 years away.
So what can you do in the meantime, until self-growing teeth become viable?
The current gold standard of teeth replacement (dental implants)
One day, we may be able to grow our own teeth within a couple of month. Until then, the best option is still dental implants. The success rates of dental implants are high, and the science is well-tested and understood. They look and feel like your own teeth, and if they are looked after, can last more than 20 years.
Dental implants are when a titanium post is surgically inserted into the jaw of the patient where the tooth needs to go. Often, a bone graft is required if the jawbone has receded or there isn’t enough healthy bone in the area. This is then allowed to heal. After time, the titanium fuses with the jaw, creating a strong platform that is essentially performing the duties of a tooth root.
Once the post has fused with the jawbone, the implant is strong and stable enough to have the final tooth fitted. It’s then a simple matter of having the custom-made prosthetic tooth screwed into the post, and then it’s ready for use.
Take care of your teeth now with dental implants
While the future of dental implants is on the horizon, it’s a very distant horizon. Dental implants are still the best option for most patients offering a strong and long-lasting option that look like your natural teeth. Contact us if you are thinking about replacing missing teeth—while we can’t grow you a new set (yet), we can offer the best dental surgeons, highly experienced staff, and an amazing option that gives you a beautiful, intact smile.