When your hair falls out, it grows back (in most cases!). If you have a cut on your finger, your skin heals itself. Even your digestive tract completely regenerates itself every few days.
But regrowing a tooth? Impossible.
A new study by scientists at Kyoto University and the University of Fukui in Japan shows there may be a way to regrow teeth.
The team has identified an antibody for a gene known as the uterine sensitization associated gene-1, or USAG-1, which can cause tooth growth in mice with congenital conditions known as tooth agenesis.
The research was published in Science Advances.
While most adults have 32 teeth, around 1 percent of the population has more or fewer permanent teeth due to genetic disorders.
This situation has driven some scientists to discover ways to harness the power of genes to regrow or regenerate teeth in adults.
How teeth regenerate depends on how several molecules interact, including BMP (bone morphogenetic protein) and Wnt signaling. These two factors are also involved with the growth of other things in the body, including how some organs and tissues grow and develop in utero.
As the researchers on the project guessed that targeting things that negatively impact BMP and Wnt could improve tooth regeneration, they immediately looked at the gene USAG-1.
They knew that by suppressing USAG-1, they could potentially facilitate growth. They put their theory to the test by using monoclonal antibodies, which are usually used to treat cancers and arthritis.
They found that using one particular antibody could facilitate the positive interaction between BMP and Wnt, which resulted in better whole-body growth in the mice. These benefits were also evident in the number of teeth the mice produced.
Notably, a single administration of this antibody facilitated the generation of an entire tooth in the mice and laboratory ferrets.
The study is the first of its kind to show the benefits of monoclonal antibody treatments for tooth regeneration and gives hope for future therapies to address tooth loss.
Currently, tooth-replacement options are limited to implants, dental bridges and dentures.
If you're missing a natural tooth or multiple teeth, you are not alone. Tooth loss is widespread. So common, in fact, that, according to the American College of Prosthodontists (ACP), around 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth.
Statistics from the ACP also show that about 40 million Americans are missing all their teeth.
The Most Common Causes of Tooth Loss
Some of the most common causes of tooth loss include:
- Tooth decay
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Physical trauma/injury from an accident, blow or fall
- Bone disease
- Normal wear and tear
- Genetic conditions
Note: According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of adults age 65 or older are living with untreated tooth decay, while 68 percent of adults in that same age group live with gum disease.
As you age, you're more likely to lose a permanent tooth. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) keeps statistics regarding the average number of teeth remaining in different age groups:
- Americans age 20 to 34 years: 26.90 teeth
- Americans age 35 to 49 years: 25.05 teeth
- Americans age 50 to 64 years: 22.30 teeth
The NIDCR also found that about 10 percent of American adults age 50 to 64 have no adult teeth remaining at all.
Can Tooth Loss Be Prevented?
In most cases, yes. There are a few things you can do in your dental care to help prevent tooth loss, and most of them help prevent tooth decay and gum disease and protect your overall dental and oral health-related quality of life.
These steps include:
- Eating a tooth-friendly diet.
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes.
- Flossing at least once per day.
- Limiting consumption of acidic drinks such as sodas, juices or energy drinks.
- Not using your teeth as tools to open packages, bottles or anything.
- Wearing a mouth guard during contact sports.
- Talking to us if you're experiencing dry mouth or grinding/clenching your teeth at night.
- Seeing the dentist at least twice a year for checkups and professional cleanings.
If you're missing a tooth or multiple teeth, don't despair. There are several options for replacing missing teeth, including full-mouth dentures, partial dentures, dental bridges and dental implants.
Of these options, dental implants look, feel and function most like natural teeth, which can improve your quality of life. Dental implants are durable and should last you many years with the proper care we've outlined above. Dental implants can also help you retain adjacent teeth on either side of your missing tooth.
Have you lost a tooth? We can help restore your smile. Learn more about our tooth-replacement options and other treatment options and how we can help today. Call us now to schedule a consultation.