James Anderson

The End of Tooth Decay

For the last few years I’ve been surfing the web for snake oils or other elixirs to restore my body back to its youthful exuberance it once held. Okay, I haven’t really been looking for snake oils, just cures for my alopecia or “male pattern baldness,” which might still fall into the same category as snake oils. I know that most men will experience this at some point in life, but for me, well, I’m only in my twenties and it’s been hard to accept. This quick decline of my hairline forced me to contemplate how age will bombard other parts of my physical health, specifically my teeth. According to an article in the New York Times the average American loses 12 teeth by the time they turn 50. After I read this I pictured my future self as a bald and now toothless shell of the man I once was. This terrifying image drove me to search out more elixirs, only this time they were oral health related. Luckily, I found some reassuring fixes for my future missing teeth.
Gone are the days of dentures. Well maybe. The most fascinating remedies I found for replacing missing teeth seem rather futuristic and maybe even controversial in the United States. The first futuristic method I found is a preventative measure that includes growing mineralized materials that resemble human tissue. The other method I found to ameliorate dental issues includes the use of stem cells as a way to replace or “regrow” missing teeth.
The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very relatable to oral health. For this reason, researchers at Queen Mary University have created a hard tissue that can be used as an artificial dental enamel. With teeth given additional or extended protection through artificial enamel, tooth decay could potentially be significantly slowed or even stopped. The Switzerland based company Credentis, is already looking at possibilities of putting similar artificial enamel products into oral care products like toothpaste and mouthwash which could mean increased access for consumers. Never running out of tooth enamel presents the possibility of less trips to the dentists, lower risk of tooth decay, and even keeping your original teeth longer than other humans throughout history. Sound great for everyone, especially those people that hate dentists visits, or those with irrational fears of being bald and toothless by age 30.
In case artificial enamel doesn’t become a commonly used product and people do lose their teeth, they still have another futuristic way to keep their “own” teeth through stem cell technology. Currently, the United States doesn’t allow stem cell testing on humans. Even so, oral stem cell technology has advanced around the world. A group of researchers have produced synthetic biomaterials that can stimulate native stem cells to repair and even regenerate pulp tissue. This opens the door to the possibility of regenerating whole “organic” teeth. Which means that dentures and other invasive oral fixtures could be replaced by your own regenerated teeth. This seems like a great alternative to traditional teeth replacements.
Sign me up for a world where tooth decay is virtually nonexistent because of artificial enamel!  Even if artificial enamel doesn’t become widely accessible and I do lose most of my teeth there is no need to worry because there is real possibility that I will be able to regenerate my own teeth through stem cell technology. Now that I don’t have to worry about losing my teeth anymore, I can focus on finding a cure for my alopecia. Any ideas?



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