HOUSTON - What if you could simply re-grow a tooth you've lost?
Right now Ben Sant wears a "flipper." It's a synthetic implant that will replace the real tooth he lost in an accident.
"It's a titanium screw that we'll screw into the bone and the bone actually osteo-integrates and fuses to the implant," said dentist Dr. Dan Mirci.
But what if Ben could simply re-grow his tooth?
Rena D'Souza, D.D.S, Ph.D., is the Dean at the University of Utah School of Dentistry. She's also a graduate of UT Health in Houston.
"There are stem cells that lie in our adult teeth and our baby teeth which we lose that can be used to regenerate or re-grow structures of the tooth that are lost to decay or trauma," said Rena D'Souza, D.D.S, the Dean at the University of Utah School of Dentistry.
For humans, the idea may be a reality closer than you think.
"Those stem cells are not embryonic stem cells. They are stem cells that reside in a niche within the tooth cavity that you can actually retrieve," said D'Souza.
Imagine no tooth implants, no false teeth, but real teeth regenerated from the body's own stem cells.
"Would have been great not to go 13 years without a tooth. Just to be able to grow my own this whole time," said Sant.
While it won't happen for Ben, Dr. D'Souza's colleagues in China, Japan, and Korea are already re-growing teeth in mice and rats.
And for humans, it might be closer than we think.
"What I consider targeted therapies like that would be five to ten years away," D'Souza said.
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