He said the new procedure did not need extensive surgery like you need today with false teeth - metal posts being driven into the jaw and capping with porcelain or plastic teeth. You also don't need dentures which can fall out and be highly inconvenient when eating food or sleeping. But there is a catch...
The tests he has done so far have only been on mice and they took a few weeks to grow. "There is no reason why it shouldn't work in humans; the principles are the same," Professor Sharpe said. Stem cells are taken from the patient, treated and cultured in a laboratory, then re-implanted in the patient’s jaw under the gum at the site of the missing or extracted tooth. This then grows into a fully-formed, live tooth in the same way that teeth develop naturally.
To date, no companies or research groups in the world have been able to demonstrate the formation of a living, natural tooth. Tarek El-Bialy, a member of the University of Alberta dentistry faculty, first tested a low-intensity pulsed ultrasound treatment to repair dental tissue in rabbits in the late 1990s. His research was published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics and later presented at the World Federation of Orthodontics in Paris in September 2005. Now, researchers at the university have filed patents for the tool based on low-intensity pulsed ultrasound technology after testing it on a dozen dental patients in Canada.
In both the US and UK, adults aged over 50 lose on average 12 teeth, including four wisdom molars, from a full complement of 32 teeth. Lost teeth can lead to problems with health, nutrition and appearance. Interestingly, many animals regrow their teeth. Sharks and reptiles continually replace lost teeth. A shark may grow 24,000 teeth in a lifetime. Elephants grow six sets of chewing teeth (molars) in their lifetimes.
Professor Sharpe heads a company called Odontis to develop the above-mentioned regenerative technique. But, an article in "The Evening Standard" dated 25th May 2005 made the regrowth claim and flagged imminent human trials. And it seems the professor also got a £400,000 seed investment from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts) back in 2004 to continue the research.
So, let's hope the recent announcement is not just fancy marketing and that real progress is being made as this could be a fantastic benefit to millions of people of all ages all over the world.