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Grow Your Own Replacement Tooth?

By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Sheena Meredith, MD

March 12, 2013 -- Growing a replacement tooth from your own cells may be a step closer, according to new research.

It is still too early for use in people, but the technique involves taking stem cells and growing more of them to produce a very small, immature tooth, similar to what a tooth would look like when it starts to grow in an embryo.

"It's very immature and very small," says Paul Sharpe, the Dickinson professor of craniofacial biology at King’s College, London, who led the work. "These are transplanted directly into the mouth where they get their blood supply, and they start to grow and gradually form a complete tooth."

Although the technique is unlikely to allow scientists to grow a specific type of tooth, dentists would be able to shape the tooth crown according to its position in the jaw.

Hybrid Human Teeth in Mice

Sharpe's team from the Dental Institute at King’s College combined human gum cells with the cells in mice responsible for growing teeth. They transplanted this combination of cells into the mice. The result was hybrid human/mouse teeth with roots.

The ability to make a tooth replacement with roots would be a major step forward in dental surgery. Replacing missing or damaged teeth currently involves fixed or removable dental implants.

Putting Down Roots

Although implants work well, the impact from chewing can wear down the implant. This is not a problem with natural teeth because they have soft tissue at the root that acts as a shock absorber.

The latest advance made by Sharpe and his team brings the prospect of bioengineered teeth with their own root system a step closer. The next step will be finding enough adult sources of human cells to make this new technique a viable alternative to dental implants.

The study appears in the Journal of Dental Research.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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