Can You Grow Your Own Teeth…Again?

Can You Grow Your Own Teeth…Again? featured image
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When we were kids and the Tooth Fairy came for our lost teeth, we all knew a brand new tooth was already growing. Imagine being able to do that again. A world where those with congenitally missing teeth can grow a new natural tooth instead of getting an implant. Where we could even regenerate lost teeth. The idea of regrowing our teeth certainly sounds like science fiction, but it’s a lot closer to science fact than you might believe. With Japanese researchers about to start human trials on a tooth-growing antibody and expectations for a viable medication estimated at 2030, it’s time to ask: how close are we, actually, to being able to regrow our teeth?

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The Eye-Catching Research

Japanese researchers studying the potential to regrow teeth are starting human trials in September, with the goal of having tooth re-growing medicine available by 2030.

“We want to do something to help those who are suffering from tooth loss or absence,” Katsu Takahashi, the head of dentistry at the medical research institute at Kitano Hospital in Osaka, told The Mainichi. “While there has been no treatment to date providing a permanent cure, we feel that people’s expectations for tooth growth are high.”

So far, Toregem Biopharma, who is conducting the research, has developed an antibody drug that utilizes undeveloped tooth buds in adults to regrow an entire human tooth. These treatments are focused on those with congenital tooth deficiency, but the eventual goal is to create solutions for anyone with tooth loss.

What’s the Potential Impact?

The ability to grow teeth in those who have congenitally missing teeth would change a lot.

“I don’t want to be cliche, but this would really revolutionize the way we treat patients,” explains New York cosmetic dentist Victoria Veytsman, DDS. “Nothing functions in your mouth the same way that a natural tooth does, and an alternative to implant technology would transform our treatment strategies.”

There’s also an undeniable appeal to patients.

“I already have patients who ask me if they can just regrow a natural tooth rather than going through with dental work,” says Dallas, TX cosmetic dentist Salvator La Mastra, DDS. “They are definitely interested in this possibility.”

Science Fiction or Science Fact?

It’s true that this research has come a long way, and that it’s been successful at regrowing teeth in mice and ferrets. That said, we’re not exactly close to being able to ‘turn on’ our genetic instructions to regrow teeth that have been lost.

“It’s promising and interesting, and you always learn something from new research like this,” says Dr. La Mastra. “But, in comparison to implant technology, which is proven, well-understood technology that we know won’t get a cavity, I don’t necessarily see re-growing a tooth to be a viable option any time soon.”

At the very least, 2030 seems like an overly optimistic timeline.

“I think we take for granted how complex our body pathways are,” Dr. Veytsman says. “While this is a matter of giving instructions and turning on the right pathways, there are billions of pathways in our bodies to choose from and they all have intricate signaling that’s happening at the same time all at once. To be able to parse those pathways and turn on the right ones with the right set of instructions so that the result is predictable is much harder than it might seem.”

When Will Regrowing Teeth be an Option?

Like most cutting-edge research, this isn’t going to end up in your dental office any time soon. Aside from how viable just regrowing teeth in a human mouth actually is, there’s a lot of troubleshooting that has to be done.

“There are real potential consequences to this process that an implant just doesn’t have,” Dr. La Mastra explains. “We have to ensure it’s the right tooth growing in, not a molar in place of an incisor, or something like that. There are bite consequences to getting this wrong that could lead to pain and multiple revisions for a patient.”

So, this isn’t likely to replace dental implants any time soon. Still, the future looks incredibly bright.

“But it’s fair to so that this is where health is headed, towards regenerative medicine,” Dr. Veytsman says. “And as AI technology is incorporated into the research process, we’re really expediting this cutting-edge research. It’s moving at a much faster rate, and it’s a really interesting time in health and medicine.”

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