General Dentistry |2 min read

Lost a Tooth? How Alligators Could Help

When you think of achieving the perfect, ear-to-ear smile,do the teeth of an alligator cross your mind? Not likely—and who would blame you? After reading this blog, though, your view might change. According to new research led by the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the chompers of an alligator may actually provide us with something to smile about when it comes to stimulating human tooth regeneration.

The Reality of Tooth Loss

In the human lifespan, we naturally only have two sets of teeth—baby teeth, and adult teeth. The issue, though, is that adult teeth often don’t last as long as we need them to.

In fact, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) states that the majority of Americans are facing this unpleasant dilemma. According to AAOMS statistics:

  • 69 percent of adults ages 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, gum disease, a failed root canal or tooth decay.
  • By 74 years of age, 26 percent of adults have lost all of their permanent teeth.

Alligators and Tooth Regeneration

That is why the findings of a global team of researchers led by USC pathology Professor Cheng-Ming Chuong, M.D., Ph.D. is of such interest. They have uncovered unique cellular and molecular mechanisms behind tooth renewal in American alligators.

Chuong stated, “We want to identify stem cells that can be used as a resource to stimulate tooth renewal in adult humans who have lost teeth. But, to do that, we must first understand how they renew in other animals and why they stop in people.”

Human teeth are naturally only replaced once in a lifetime, even though there still exists a band of epithelial tissue called the dental lamina, which is crucial to tooth development. On the other hand, although alligators have teeth implanted in the sockets of the dental bone much like humans do, researchers discovered that the reptile’s teeth can be replaced up to 50 times over their lifetime.

Dentist Durham Co-author Randall B. Widelitz, Ph.D concluded

“Stem cells divide more slowly than other cells. The cells in the alligator’s dental lamina behaved like we would expect stem cells to behave. In the future, we hope to isolate those cells from the dental lamina to see whether we can use them to regenerate teeth in the lab.”

It will be interesting to see what future research reveals in this matter of high-tech tooth regeneration. If you are currently missing a tooth and are contemplating your best course of action, consider the modern, highly effective option of dental implants. Contact your dentist in Durham today and take the first step to boosting your smile onto the fast-track to success.

Tell your friends they should want a set of chompers like an alligator, and then share this information to explain why.

What about you? Would you be eager to take advantage of this technology if it was available today?