As a child, losing a tooth is not a big deal. In fact, the teeth that are present early in our lives are meant to fall out, so they can be replaced with permanent, adult teeth. This regrowth process is natural, but once those permanent teeth grow in, there’s no way to replace them naturally if they fall out.
That means a simple sports injury, trauma to the face or jaw, a bad cavity, or a host of other issues can cause your teeth to fall out. Once they do, there is no replacement other than implants. While implants are a great alternative to real teeth, the ability to regrow, real teeth is an even better solution.
The question of how to regrow teeth has been omnipresent in the industry. Rather than replacing a missing tooth with implants and worrying about infections and other concerns, replacing the missing tooth with a real, natural tooth is preferred.
Unfortunately, this is no easy task. Teeth do not naturally regenerate in this way. As a result, researchers have studied the process of growth and development to determine if there is, in fact, a solution.
In order to regrow teeth, the roots must be regenerated. Typically, this is not possible, but scientists are confident that there is a way to accomplish this.
In a recent article published by USC’s Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, an interesting discovery was made about tooth root pattern and development. It turns out that epigenetic regulation can control this.
Researchers are increasingly interested in the way that the body changes over time. Epigenetics, the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code, allows them to do just that.
This process doesn’t make changes to DNA but it does control where genes are available and unavailable for transcription. This process controls the pattern of growth.
To learn about this, the researchers looked at Ezh2, a protein that helps with the development of bones in the face. Prior to this, it was not known how this protein affects root development. After studying what happens when the protein is not present in the molars of developing mice, the researchers learned that Ezh2 and a protein called Arid1a have to be in balance to establish a root pattern and integrate properly with the jaw bone.
This discovery brings them one step closer to finding a way to regrow teeth through root regeneration.
Further discovery found that the root patterns and growth of Neanderthals were much different than ours today. The difference appears to be the effect of diet and exercise on the proteins that encourage this regrowth.
Essentially, this study proved that a balance in the body is important. Without the right balance of proteins, root regeneration is not possible. While the possibility of tooth regrowth is still far off, Chai, the associate dean of research at USC’s school of dentistry, aims to start by regenerating molar roots and then placing a crown on top.
For now, dental implants are a great, safe option for missing teeth. Contact our office today to learn more about your options.