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Oh, Tooth Fairy Won't You Bring Me a Molar?

Post: #1
04-12-2009, 08:12 PM
member82655 Offline

Oh, Tooth Fairy Won't You Bring Me a Molar?

The Tooth Fairy is quite a collector with the teeth of hundreds of millions of children in her collection from many years of exercising her craft. When we move on to our permanent teeth however, we are not so keen to part with them and given the option, any of us would give up the "lousy buck" that we were given in exchange for a solid working tooth. However, since the Tooth Fairy isn't letting go of her collection any time soon, modern science is doing the job on her behalf.

Whether it be as a result of injury, deep cavities or cracks in the tooth itself for some other reason, a damaged tooth is a potential source of infection that dentists currently treat preventatively with endodontic therapy more commonly known as a root canal. While the stereotypically dreaded root canal is not as bad "as advertised", it does have the downside of allowing the tooth to become more brittle over time because the removal of nerves and blood vessels from the tooth during a root canal allows the tooth to lose moisture. To prevent the tooth from breaking, dentists will add a crown to cap the tooth both to hold it together and to seal it as much as possible.

A secondary downside that is more difficult to overcome is that because the tooth "feels no pain", future cavities of the tooth can readily progress to a point where the tooth fails and must be removed. The only protection in this case, in addition to the recommended dental care provided by the dentist, is a regimen of routine check ups to identify cavities early.

When compared to removing the tooth altogether, a root canal is definitely a much better option since it keeps the tooth in place to eliminate migration of the teeth, allows a working tooth for eating and is considered by most to be more appealing. Although the root canal may be the best option currently, it is a bit like adding supports to an old collapsing building rather than rebuilding. Fortunately, some new technologies are pointing toward a better option that may soon be available.

For at least 5 years now, scientists have been using modern industrial design technology in the form of increasingly common three-dimensional printers in order to research bone creation. In the same way that a plastic part can now be printed by building up very thin cross-sections of the part, printing of bone can also be accomplished the same way. The difference is that rather than being made of one material like a plastic part, a bone is made of the hydroxyapatite bone material and living cells so the printer must be able to deposit each type of material and in the correct geometry. The living cells that are deposited are bone marrow stem cells that convert into bone cells and endothelial cells that form blood vessels.

Now a tooth is not just a piece of solid bone so it cannot be created by "simply" printing a piece of bone. However, its inner bone-like parts vary mostly by the concentration of minerals, collagen and water where collagen is the common connective tissue found in the body. As a result, by taking into account the "formula" variations at the various locations in the tooth while printing, structures with different characteristics can be built with largely the same materials. With this ability, all but the external enamel of the common tooth could be created. The tooth enamel is a bit special because of its highly crystallized structure.

Once the soft tooth exists, the next required step is to be able to create the tooth enamel to cap the tooth. Researchers have now found the gene that controls the creation of tooth enamel and are now working towards convincing stem cells to become enamel generators. Once these stem cells are properly trained, the concept would be to print the enamel-generating stem cells onto the top and side portions of the soft tooth and then place a properly shaped prebuilt tooth enamel cap on top. The enamel generated by the stem cells would bind with the existing enamel to attach the whole crown to the tooth producing a fully functional tooth.

While none of the techniques that will soon be used to print a new tooth are by any means trivial, they are not extremely difficult either and the tooth is likely to be one of the first complex structures to be created due to its relative simplicity. Whether dental labs will have the resulting technology readily available in house is a good question that depends on how cheap tooth manufacturing equipment can be. In addition, getting a new tooth attached to the jaw will be another challenge given the bacterial juices in our mouths that could inhibit healing, however it is by no means insurmountable.

Since the Tooth Fairy does not seem to be interested in magically providing us new or better teeth, it is good to see that modern science is a bit more helpful. Hopefully in a couple of years, the idea of a root canal will become part of the mythology of years past and will only serve to frighten children who refuse to brush their teeth.

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Post: #2
08-05-2012, 01:00 PM
member82845 Offline

RE: Oh, Tooth Fairy Won't You Bring Me a Molar?

It's worth noting that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had extremely low rates of tooth decay, it was very rare yet they didn't have access to toothpaste, dental floss and mouth wash. Why? Because they didn't eat much sugar, only natural sugar found in seasonal fruit and tubers etc.

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Post: #3
03-21-2013, 12:35 AM
member33169 Offline

RE: Oh, Tooth Fairy Won't You Bring Me a Molar?

I was very unaware of the effects of dry mouth on the teeth until I had problems with my teeth. I found out the hard way that you lose the natural enzyme effect when you tale multiple medicines. I am glad I found out that you have to use something like biotene to replace the enzymes or you could lose your teeth. Bad news.

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Post: #4
06-10-2013, 12:01 PM
member59939 Offline

RE: Oh, Tooth Fairy Won't You Bring Me a Molar?

I'm a few teeth less now than used to be when in my prime, luckily mainly back teeth which are not particularly noticeable, unless I stand with my mouth open. I lost most in my younger years when dentists seemed to prefer to extract than fill. Financially more lucrative i guess.
Teeth that seem to cause the biggest problems though seem to be "Wisdom" teeth. Luckily I had no problem with mine but friends have had major problems with them (Wisdom teeth) coming through sideways and pushing existing teeth together. This usually results in a hospital visit to have them removed under general anesthetic. Why is it that "Wisdom Teeth" seem to cause these problems to so many people?

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Post: #5
03-12-2014, 02:11 AM
member22800 Offline

RE: Oh, Tooth Fairy Won't You Bring Me a Molar?

At almost 50 years of age my wisdom teeth decided to have a growth spurt. That they are growing in crooked isn't a problem but rather what they have done to my existing molars is. I had fillings as a kid (in my young adult teeth). Most of my adult life my teeth have been fine. My wisdom teeth have been putting pressure on my old molars and are cracking and breaking them. Filling are popping out and - although I am not in pain - it is becoming a challenge to eat properly.
If the research above fails, humans really to evolve a third set of teeth.

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