The Holy Grail of tooth replacement technology is to replace a tooth with a naturally grown human tooth of your own - no implants, no porcelain crown - a genuine new tooth grown by your body to replace a missing tooth. This may sound like science fiction, but research that has been conducted in a Japanese laboratory over the last decade may have brought this dream a little closer to reality.
The first important fact to acknowledge is that humans already have the ability to regrow teeth - the secondary ‘adult’ teeth grow during childhood and then erupt to replace the deciduous ‘milk’ teeth. So the process of new tooth growth is something that human bodies are capable of - but only once.
Understanding the genes that are responsible for growing teeth is an active area of research. Over 200 genes involved in tooth development have been identified.
About 10 years ago, a team of scientists led by Katsu Takahashi outlined the feasibility of gene therapy for tooth regrowth. Their planned approach was to look at the effects of activating and repressing particular genes associated with tooth regeneration in mice.
Fast forward to the present day, and their careful research has led to a specific gene therapy treatment that is scheduled for human trials. The first people to benefit from this new technology will be children with a condition called “congenital tooth agenesis” - essentially, children whose teeth never grow in the first place.
We are a little way off this technology being used for adults to replace teeth that have been lost through decay or trauma. However, with the incredible advances in understanding that have taken place over the last decade, we can imagine the direction that future advances may take us.
In the meantime, the best treatment for replacing missing teeth remains dental implants. A treatment that we specialise in at Norfolk Dental Specialists. If you would like to know more about dental implants, please don’t hesitate to call our reception on 01603 632525. We can book you in for a free appointment with our Treatment Coordinator who will be able to answer all of your questions.