We're told when we're younger that losing an adult tooth is it. Unlike our baby teeth, which get replaced with the adult tooth, losing the tooth a second time means it's gone for good.
Sure, there are prosthetics and dentures, but they come with their own sets of problems. Now, however, researchers are saying it may be possible to regrow the adult tooth.
In a study published by Dr. Jeremy Mao of the Columbia University Medical Center, science has shown we may be able to regenerate an adult tooth in as little as 9 weeks.
The method involves implanting a 'scaffold' of the tooth shape, and allowing dental stem cells to grow within and replace the missing tooth.
This technique would mean you don't have to grow the tooth in a petri dish, as it can naturally fill in the gap in your smile. Additionally, the recovery time would be much faster than current standard implants.
Current false tooth implants can take up to 18 months to heal, and there's always the chance the implant won't take. Additionally, the human mouth is constantly changing and there's always the chance of the implant being reject down the line.
With Dr. Mao's technique, the tooth would be your own, grown with a little help from outside the body. But being grown in the mouth, this tooth can integrate with your body in ways false teeth can't.
The findings from this study are incredible.
However, not everyone is convinced.
The technique is still being researched, with Dr. Mao trying to find the most inexpensive way to perform the replacement.
"A key consideration in tooth regeneration is finding a cost-effective approach that can translate into therapies for patients who cannot afford or who aren't good candidates for dental implants,"
Dr. Mao said.
"Cell-homing-based tooth regeneration may provide a tangible pathway toward clinical translation."
The treatment has proven promising enough that Columbia University has filed a patent on the technology.
In recent years, news about possible stem cell treatments have been coming faster and faster. A year into office, former President Obama modified an executive order given by his predecessor, George W. Bush. This change allowed more research and experiments into stem cells.
While limits were placed, in the last few years, the FDA has had to crack down on clinics that were trying to sell unproven treatments. This, combined with the initial public outcry at embryonic stem cells, has given the treatments a bad public image.
However if medically backed treatments like the kind Dr. Mao is researching can be proven to work clinically, the science of stem cells can provide a better life.