Could dental implants be a thing of the past? In the future, dentists could be using advancements in science to help patients grow new teeth.
It may sound like something from a science fiction movie, but research at the University of Tokyo suggests that in the future, patients may not need to resort to dental implants to replace missing teeth – they could grow new ones instead. Scientists at the laboratory in Japan have successfully grown replacement teeth for mice – and it’s a technique that could be developed for human use.
Dental Implants versus Bioengineering
The advances in science says rather than using dental implants, dentists will merely plant tooth seeds in the jaws of their patients, to grow new teeth. The experiment with mice involved growing the teeth germ in laboratory conditions before transplanting them into the jaws of the mouse. The bioengineering technology exists for growing organ tissue in laboratories that have been transplanted into animals, but the Tokyo experiment is the first time this has been done with teeth – or with a three-dimensional organ – grown from just a few cells.
Research Could Spell End of Dental Implants
The researchers tracked genes using a fluorescent protein during the teeth growth and discovered the teeth had all the usual structures such as blood vessels and enamel. This could have far-reaching implications for people who lose their teeth, who now rely on dental implants. As well as dental implants, Professor Tsuji behind the research said that the technique could also lead to new developments in organ replacements – growing new organs inside the body from stem or germ cells.
A New Era in Dentistry
In a study outlining the research, Professor Tsuji said: “We propose this technology as a model for future organ-replacement therapies. This study represents a substantial advance and emphasises the potential for bioengineered organ replacement in future regenerative therapies.”
The research could be the beginning of a new era in dentistry, with dental implants eventually becoming a thing of the past. Although experts believe we are at least a decade or more away before this kind of dental implant replacement service is available to patients. There are many clinical trials and tests that need to be considered first. Currently, dental implants are the best way to replace any lost or missing teeth – a procedure that entails a titanium screw being driven into the jaw and capped with a porcelain crown. Dental implants can only be done by qualified dentists, and although are expensive to fit, an estimated 7 million implants have been placed since the service became available in the 1980s.
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