Science

Could bioengineered teeth spell the end of dreaded fillings and costly implants?

Scientists are looking at how stem cells from the dental pulp could, one day, help us regrow our teeth.

Tooth loss is one of the most common health issues affecting millions worldwide but scientists believe a solution could be on the way that could see the end of dreaded fillings along with expensive bridges and dental implants.

Researchers in the US have been investigating new possible technologies in dental treatments and believe the answer to human tooth problems lies in bioengineering.

Data published by the NHS this year showed in the UK, there were 42,911 hospital procedures to remove multiple teeth from patients aged 18 and under in 2016-17 – at a cost of more than £36 million.

The figures reveal a jump of almost 17% in the number of extractions performed on young people over the past four years.

Bioengineered tooth, unlike currently available artificial implants, involves developing new tooth buds using stem cells from the dental pulp, which could one day essentially allow humans to regrow their tooth.

Dental stock
Scientists believe bioengineered tooth could eliminate the requirement for dental bridges or implants (Rui Vieira/PA)

According to scientists at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, their lab-grown structures mimic the natural tooth, which they demonstrated with experiments on rats.

Meanwhile, another group of scientists at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and Federation de Medecine Translationnelle de Strasbourg in France have been experimenting with bone marrow cells to help stimulate the nerve cells of bioengineered teeth.

They say nerve connections are “essential for function and protection” of the teeth – much like the soft core (the blood vessels and nerves) found in naturally grown teeth.

William V Giannobile, editor of the Journal of Dental Research – where the results have been published, hailed the findings.

He said: “These exciting studies point to a promising future for bioengineered teeth.

“This cutting-edge research has the potential to advance tooth replacement therapy and the science base to bring such regenerative medicine treatments to improve clinical care.”

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