April 02 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Health & Medicine Year: General Rating: 7
Not too far into the future, people will no longer dread having their cavities drilled and filled thanks to the new medical field of regenerative dentistry. Instead, they will have the option to regrow portions of teeth that have become damaged, lost, or that haven’t grown in correctly.
Wired reports the near-term implications of possible medical break-throughs in this field:
The next time your children get cavities, they might get tooth regeneration instead of fillings. That’s because materials scientists are beginning to find just the right solutions of chemicals to rebuild decayed teeth, rather than merely patching their holes. Enamel and dentin, the materials that make teeth the strongest pieces of the body, would replace the gold or ceramic fillings that currently return teeth to working order.
The piece also highlights the work of Sally Marshall, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco whose recent work has focused on the regrowth of dentin in damaged teeth. Although total regeneration is 10-15 years out, Marshall is working on a nearer-term solution that may affect our dental health in the coming years.
Marshall’s newest work, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Structural Biology, focuses on regrowing dentin in damaged teeth with the help of a calcium-containing solution of ions (electrically charged particles). By putting a layer of the solution on individual test teeth, Marshall has already been able to remineralize some parts of the teeth. The challenge is to get the crystals to regrow throughout the dentin.
This is big news for a variety of people. Dental patients will no longer fear the drill and elderly patients may be able to regrow entire sets of teeth. Say good-bye to denture companies and hello to millions of people with renewed self-esteem and dental comfort.
It will be fun to watch the dental industry morph as practitioners undergo the necessary re-training and the dotted smiles of hockey players regain normalcy. At the same time, we’ll also surely see corresponding breakthroughs in other bone- and body-regenerative sciences. One thing is for sure: the future is bound to bring less pain in the dentist’s chair and lots of happy pearly-whites.