There was a time when people who lost teeth as adults were simply out of luck. When we developed dentures and dental implants, the situation improved for those who are dentally deficient. But dentures are uncomfortable, and the procedure for installing dental implants is rather barbaric. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have devised a new method for regrowing missing teeth in adults – right in their own mouths.
The technique, developed by Dr. Jeffrey Mao, involves placing a tooth “scaffolding” made of natural materials in the patient’s mouth and directing stem cells to develop into a new, healthy tooth. By growing a real tooth right in the patient’s mouth, the patient’s healing time is greatly reduced when compared to that required after dental implants, and the chance of rejection by the patient’s body is almost eliminated.
The new tooth develops new periodontal ligaments and alveolar bone, neither of which happen with traditional dental implants. The technique has only been tested in animals so far, but it has met with success in those trials. Maybe the most significant implication of this method is the fact that it stands to be far more affordable than traditional implants, making it possible for even people with limited funds to have a whole mouth full of healthy, beautiful teeth.