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People who are missing teeth have a few options if they want to replace them, which they should if they want to have optimal dental health. They can purchase partial or full dentures to replace their teeth or get dental implants, which can be fairly expensive. Currently, there is no common solution to missing teeth that involves using natural materials, but all that may change. According to a recent report written by researchers from the Dental Institute at King's College London, scientists have developed a way to replace teeth using a bioengineered material generated from a person's own gum cells.
The scientists are hoping that this will help eliminate some of the common issues surrounding dentures and implants.
A natural solution
When people have implants or dentures, their smile may appear to be the same as individuals who have all-natural teeth, but their dental health is not. Tooth replacement methods cannot reproduce a natural root structure, which means that, over time, individuals may find themselves experiencing bone loss in their jaw. To solve this problem, the scientists set out to create bioteeth that would be closer to the real thing and made using natural materials.
Researchers isolated adult human gum tissue from patients at the Dental Institute, grew more of it at the lab and then combined it with the cells of mice that form teeth. When these cells and tissues were transplanted into mice, they were able to create hybrid human/mouse teeth that had everything from dentine to enamel, and there was also a visible root.
"Epithelial cells derived from adult human gum tissue are capable of responding to tooth inducing signals from embryonic tooth mesenchyme in an appropriate way to contribute to tooth crown and root formation and give rise to relevant differentiated cell types, following in vitro culture. These easily accessible epithelial cells are thus a realistic source for consideration in human biotooth formation," said researcher and professor Paul Sharpe, an expert in craniofacial development and stem cell biology at King's College London.
The researchers said that their next major challenge is to determine how to culture adult human mesenchymal cells to induce teeth, since currently, only embryonic mesenchymal cells can do so.
These findings may lead to a new method of replacing teeth that is more natural than the current options and more permanent than dentures or implants.
What to do now?
While these bioteeth may be years off, there are still options for replacing missing teeth, and anyone who needs them should look into them. According to the Academy of Osseointegration, missing teeth can result in bone loss in the jaw as well as the drifting of neighboring teeth, which can change not only the appearance, but also the function of teeth. Over time, it can be difficult to eat, chew and even speak properly with missing teeth.
The two most common ways to replace teeth are with dentures or dental implants. While dental implants may be the more expensive option, implants help reduce the risk of experiencing dental problems due to missing teeth because they are permanent. Dentures can be taken out regularly, which may leave the mouth vulnerable to drifting teeth or bone loss. People should visit a dental health professional regularly for dental care that may help them keep their natural teeth for as long as possible. Although there are options to replace teeth, it's always best for people to try to hold on to their natural ones for as long as possible.
They should also talk to their dentist about all of the options available to them for how to replace missing teeth.
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