Research out of Harvard has revealed a way to manipulate the tooth stem cells to regrow dentin and potentially enamel. The research, revealed by Digital Trends, shows promise in reducing the incidence of cavities and possibly even replacing the need for fillings, dentures, and other issues of the tooth. As a dentist, you may think I am concerned about this. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I know many people will claim dentists will find a way to either outlaw it or prevent it from coming to the market, but here is the thing: Nothing can replace your natural, permanent teeth. Dentists, who properly practice, are generally ethical and honest. Loss of teeth is a tragedy for both patient and dentist, and anything that can reverse the damage or heal your teeth is truly a blessing.
Another thing to remember, is that this technology will likely not be available to consumers for at least a few more years. I noticed that sensationalist headlines, that say the end of brushing, flossing, and rinsing may arise out of this, but that is really what those headlines are: sensational. The technology also has many benefits beyond dental health. It may lead eventually to further manipulation of our stem cells to help regrow or replace other parts of our body that are damaged or have worn out with age.
Stem cells, which many of you may know, are the undifferentiated cells in our bodies, that when manipulated or placed near a damaged organ, help that organ heal. This is a gross oversimplifcation, of course, and finding the mechanism to activate this process is a tricky one. Another issue with stem cells is the controversy. Many people mistakenly believe that stem cells can only be harvested from embryos. This is patently untrue, as each and every one of us has stem cells in our body, left over from our fetal development, and they exist to help regenerate our bodies over time. In fact, in another scientific discovery, they found a woman whose advanced age was thanks to the presence of still active stem cells in her body. But I have gone off on a tangent, and I by no means want to start controversy here. I simply want to share with my friends, this exciting development.
The potential to keep your all or most of your natural teeth your entire life is a privilege very few of us get to enjoy, especially as our lifespans increase, and subsequently, we need to replace them with dentures, implants, and crowns. Nature designed us to have our teeth our entire life, but at that time, most humans were lucky to live past 40 or 50. Now, the average person in the United States is living to be approximately 80 years, which means there is far more time for teeth to get worn and need to be replaced. If science and medicine can find a way to heal our natural teeth, especially as life spans extend to supercentinarian (100+) status, without the need to replace them, this is for lack of a better term, a god send. And these developments, will hopefully open the way to other medical treatments that will help improve quality of life and speed up healing with less invasive measures than we currently have.
Remember, friends, however, the progress of this will be slow, and there will likely be regulatory hurdles. So, by no means stop brushing and flossing regularly, and see your dentist regularly. Hopefully, this technology will be approved and out in a few years, or decades, depending on the speed of progress and can help us all live happier, fuller lives.