Dental patients of the future may be able to regenerate teeth throughout life if scientists can figure out how alligators accomplish this. Although St. Petersburg patients can increase their chances of keeping their teeth with daily brushing and flossing and regular check-ups, regeneration would be the ultimate solution to missing teeth. After all, there is no comparison between natural teeth and dentures or implants. Furthermore, the time, discomfort and expense of dental work would become unnecessary.
Similarities Between Human Teeth and Alligator Teeth
Scientists already know that the teeth of alligators and humans are similarly organized. Certain teeth have unique purposes, and all of the teeth are anchored in the jawbone. In alligators, however, scientists have found three separate parts of each tooth. The tooth that is being currently used, a tooth ready to take the place of the working tooth if it is lost and dental lamina, which is essentially tissue that spurs development of new teeth. Humans, meanwhile, only regenerate teeth once in a lifetime, during the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, and only have working teeth and lamina.
The Lamina May Hold the Answer
According to researchers, the lamina may contain the key factor necessary for regeneration of teeth. Teeth grow thanks to stem cells in the lamina, but this growth comes to a halt once a person develops adult teeth. If scientists can figure out exactly how alligator lamina stimulates continuous regeneration of teeth, dentists might one day be able to give this ability to humans. At this point, researchers are only aware that a certain protein plays a part. Long-term research will hopefully reveal all of the factors involved in this process.
Patients might eventually be able to regenerate teeth and avoid worries of tooth loss altogether, but this technology is unlikely to appear any time soon. This means that St. Petersburg patients should continue to care for their teeth every day and visit their dentist at least once every six months. Besides being able to get thorough teeth cleanings, patients who visit the dentist have access to tooth loss solutions that are far more effective and convenient than those of the past.