For many people who suffer from the lost bite function and diminished aesthetics caused by missing teeth, dental implants are an optimal solution because they are designed to perform, look and feel like healthy, natural teeth.
But the future may hold an even better treatment for missing teeth. And researchers believe a technique currently in development could have applications in other restorative and cosmetic dentistry services.
Growing New Teeth
Scientists have been exploring the use of stem cells to grow new teeth for more than a decade, with increasing levels of success. Promising ongoing research at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine focuses on growing new teeth and bone from a versatile type of dental stem cell.
Stem cells are taken from the pulp of healthy adult teeth, then isolated and coaxed into a tooth bud, a tiny tissue cluster that can grow into a mature tooth. Among these cells is a so-called “universal cell” that scientists can coax into other types of oral tissue, including jaw bone.
The ability to effectively grow new teeth is still years away. To develop properly, dental stem cells require a precise blend of hormones and nutrients at precisely the right time, a task that is difficult to accomplish in a Petri dish. To foster growth, the cells are placed on a biological “scaffold,” which replicates the structure of a tooth bud; researchers are still honing in on a scaffold design to host the complex structure of the tooth bud and accommodate transfer to the body.
New Teeth vs. Dental Implants and Dentures
Until we’re able to grow new teeth, dental implants and dentures remain functional and attractive solutions for replacing missing teeth. Modern dentures are more comfortable and durable than those of generations past, and advancements have even been made in dental implants, which are now available in a metal-free option.
So why pursue the growth of new teeth? Due to the artificial nature of dentures and dental implants, they have limitations that natural teeth do not.
Researchers believe naturally regrown teeth would fit better with remaining natural teeth, and provide more bite stability and durability than dentures. Scientists also believe a new tooth would offer advantages over dental implants, which replicate teeth from the root to the crown, but absorb and channel bite impact differently than natural teeth.
On the other hand, a dental implant can be placed and healed in six months or less, but
Seeking Treatment for Missing Teeth
Without treatment, missing teeth allow space for other natural teeth to shift. This can contribute to progressive oral health problems including tooth decay, gum disease and bone loss.
The accomplished dentists at Smile Columbia Dentistry have extensive experience helping patients restore vibrant, healthy smiles with state-of-the-art dentures and dental implants. If you live in Columbia, SC, and would like to learn more about your options for replacing missing teeth, please call Smile Columbia Dentistry at (803) 781-9090 to schedule your appointment.