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Ask the Dentist: New technique tricks mouth into growing bone

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says new techniques of growing bone and tooth tissue are taking dentistry in an exciting direction

Gels containing proteins taken from developing teeth in pigs stimulate tooth and bone tissue growth and repair
Lucy Stock

ONE of the most exciting areas in dentistry today are the treatments that stimulate the regeneration of lost oral tissues such as bone, gum and teeth.

There are now materials available to dentists that are considered breakthrough advancements in how dentists treat teeth. This applies to such an extent that a tooth which in the past was deemed hopeless can now undergo treatment to reverse damage making it last longer. Unfortunately these treatment concepts can't save all teeth but have spectacular results when conditions are favourable.

Human teeth are comprised of three hard tissues; enamel, dentin and cementum. A tooth root is mostly made from dentine covered with a coating of cementum. Between the cementum and bone is a thin layer called the periodontal ligament which acts like a shock absorber. So when you bite your teeth move ever so slightly in and out of the jaw bone.

Bone is lost from around a tooth due to many different disease processes. One common way that bone is lost is down to gum disease. Gum disease eventually makes teeth loose and fall out. It used to be thought that regrowing bone around teeth was impossible due to not being able to make the periodontal ligament regrow.

However, now there are specially designed gels containing enamel matrix proteins (EMPs) that trick the body into forming new bone, cementum and the attachment fibres. The gels' secret weapon are the EMPs that are taken from developing teeth in pigs. As unusual as it sounds, the gels are compatible with the human body and don't cause allergic reactions.

When our teeth are first forming, these proteins are naturally secreted on to the root surface which creates the environment so that teeth can attach to bone. The same process is replicated when these EMP gels are placed on to adult teeth that have lost bone due to a disease. The gels stimulates bone cells to grow and stops the cells that eat bone.

The dentist assesses each tooth individually to see if it would be favourable for these bone-growth treatments. A variety of treatments that use EMP gels, both surgical and non-surgical, can cause bone to grow. This means that loose teeth can tighten and gum recession can be reversed.

So if you're suffering from gum disease, it may be worth checking to see if some of the teeth can now be saved.

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