A Homegrown Smile? Atlanta Dentist Examines New Research on the Biological Teeth Replacement

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New research published in the Journal of Dental Research suggests that patients may soon be able to grow replacement teeth using their own soft-tissue cells. Dr. David Zelby, a prosthodontics specialist, presents the findings and discusses the real-world implications of this important discovery.

Bioengineered Teeth
While [bioteeth are] a huge advance for both dentists and patients, the dental industry is years away from having the ability to produce these results on a large scale.

The teeth play an important role in speaking, chewing, and supporting other oral structures. Even a single missing tooth can significantly reduce a person’s ability to perform these everyday tasks normally. Dentists and patients have a wide range of dental prosthetics such as bridgework, partial dentures, and dental implants to replace missing adult teeth.

Recent research from King’s College London has opened up another possibility for replacing missing dentition: bioengineered teeth. Drawing inspiration from both stem cell research and craniofacial development, scientists successfully demonstrated that placing cells from the teeth primordia (embryonic or immature teeth) in the jawbone can develop into functional adult teeth. Unfortunately, utilizing stem cells in this manner is not a practical option for dentistry on a large scale.

To address this issue, researchers had to locate an adult-derived source for the types of cells needed to generate bioteeth. Researchers working at the King’s College London Dental Institute discovered that epithelial cells taken from the gum tissue of adults, when implanted in the embryonic teeth cells of mice, successfully grew into mouse/human hybrid teeth complete with crown, root, dentin, and enamel layers.

Dr. David Zelby, an Atlanta dentist who specializes in restorative dentistry and dental prosthetics, cautions that while this is a huge advance for both dentists and patients, the dental industry is years away from having the ability to produce these results on a large scale. The primary obstacle involves developing easily produced, affordable synthetic human embryonic teeth cells.

Once this technology is developed, people in the future may be able to regrow their own smiles. However, Dr. Zelby warns that patients who have a missing tooth or several missing teeth should not wait until bioteeth are readily available to find a replacement for lost dentition. “Even one missing tooth can lead to a number of oral health problems, including an increased risk of tooth decay and a number of issues with proper bite and alignment,” says Dr. Zelby.

While bridgework and partial dentures offer reliable prosthetic solutions, most progressive dentists recommend that patients with missing teeth explore the possibility of dental implants. “Dental implants are the closest facsimile of a natural tooth that we have readily available,” Dr. Zelby asserts. Dental implants replicate both the crown and root structures of a real tooth, provide better support than other dental prosthetics, and can aid in maintaining healthy jawbone density.

Dr. David Zelby specializes in restorative dentistry and dental prosthetics and practices at Aesthetic & Implant Dentistry of Atlanta. To speak to Dr. Zelby about dental implants, teeth replacement, or any general dental health concern, call (770) 995-0550 or visit http://www.davidzelbydds.com.

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Regina Hersey
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