If you’ve chipped a tooth, lost one completely or are missing a chunk due to cavities, I’m sure you wondered why it can’t simply repair itself or regrow in the same way as our skin and bones. Tooth damage usually necessitates a trip to the dentist, something that terrifies many of us.
At present, treatments for damaged teeth include fillings, implants, veneers and dentures. These all involve putting artificial substances into our dental system – which can be worrying if you prefer natural remedies. Is there an alternative? Is it possible to regrow your teeth? Read on to find out.
The Basics of Human Tooth Development
Most of us know from personal experience that we get two sets of teeth in our lifetime. The first set develops while we are still in the womb. At birth, we have a full set of 20 teeth hidden underneath our gums. This first set is known as our “primary teeth”, “baby teeth” or “milk teeth”.
Between the age of around 6 months to 3 years, the baby teeth break through the gums in the process known as “teething”. If you damage a tooth before the age of 6 years, you don’t have to worry, as all of the milk teeth begin falling out anyway.
From 6 -13 years, the permanent or “adult teeth” erupt. This set has between 28 and 32 teeth, depending on whether your widsom teeth appear or not. Wisdom teeth usually erupt between age 17 and 21 but it can happen much later or not at all. (source)
Well, Is It Possible to Regrow Your Teeth?
As you may have concluded from the name “permanent teeth” given to our adult set, they are permanent and do not regrow. The only case where it is possible to grow a whole new tooth naturally is if you are a child who still has milk teeth.
The other case where your teeth can regrow on demand is if you are a type of fish called a “cichlid fish”. In which case, you probably can’t read this article. On a serious note, I will be discussing this fish later as it has lead to some promising research in the area of tooth regrowth.
There is some evidence to say that your adult teeth can “remineralise”, rather than regrowing. Now don’t get too excited as this only applies to repair of very shallow enamel erosion but I will explain how you can help this process along.
How To Remineralize Your Teeth
The usual treatment for a cavity is to insert a filling made of either metal, plastic or glass. However, a study showed that cavities may be reversed by strict dietary changes. The theory is that phytic acid, a substance found in grains, nuts, seeds and beans prevents our teeth from healing effectively.
The study was carried out on children with cavities. Group 1 ate a diet rich in phytic acid, group 2 ate a normal diet with a vitamin D supplement and group 3 ate a diet low in phytic acid and took a vitamin D supplement. Group 3 saw great improvement – nearly all cavities were healed.
To help remineralize your teeth you should avoid sugar completely, eat a diet low in phytic acid and consume a lot of dairy. Toothpastes aimed at increasing remineralization help too. (source)
Traditional Remedies for Tooth Growth
In my research, I found some strange traditional remedies claiming to help tooth regrowth. As I’ve already explained, it’s not possible to regrow adult teeth so take these with a grain of salt.
One page recommended eating an eggshell every day, which sounds almost as awful as going to the dentist to me. Apparently they don’t taste so bad in smoothies but I find the idea hard to stomach. Apparently eggshells contain a lot of calcium and other tooth healthy minerals but I’d rather get them from a vitamin supplement or my regular diet. (source)
Another suggestion is a herb called “comfrey” which used to be known as “knitbone” as it helped heal broken bones. Well, this herb contains poisonous chemicals that are absorbed through the so I won’t be trying that one, thank you very much. (source)
I do love natural remedies but only if they are safe and have good science behind them. I think when it comes to tooth regrowth, your best bet is to modify your diet. If you try some of the things I found online, your best result is probably strengthened enamel but in the worst case you can consume poisons or eat hundreds of eggshells for no reason…
What Does The Future Hold For Tooth Regrowth?
Tooth regrowth seems to be a hot topic in the science community. With the prevalence of sugar “addiction” in modern society, two sets of teeth just doesn’t seem to be enough. Luckily, there have been a few promising breakthroughs but they are still quite far from becoming mainstream.
As I mentioned above, scientists have been studying cichlid fish in Lake Malawi. These fish have an endless supply of new teeth. The key is to find the genes and chemicals involved in turning stem cells into teeth and taste buds (both start as the same type of cell).
Researchers believe that the cells in a human’s mouth “might be more plastic than we had previously thought.” Even if they can figure out how to create teeth from stem cells, it must then be linked with nerves and blood vessels to remain viable. (source)
Another group led by Yang Chai of the University of Southern California studied the process in rodents. Rodents’ incisor teeth keep growing whereas their molar teeth stop. By comparing the two different types of teeth, it may be possible to unlock the regrowth process for human teeth. (source)
Yet another study used lasers to successfully repair both rodent and human dental tissue in the lab. It has not yet been tested in humans but results are promising. The group drilled holes into rat molars, exposing the dentin in the interior of the tooth.
Then they applied a low-powered laser to activate the stem cells to produce more dentin and repair the area. The result was a success, the molar treated with the laser grew back within 12 weeks whereas the control did not. (source)
One doctor is ahead of the pack when it comes to tooth regrowth. Dr. Jeremy Mao of Columbia University Medical Center used a 3Dl scaffold and growth factors to regenerate a tooth in nine weeks. The technique has been patented and the team are looking for ways to bring it out of the lab and into the clinic. (source)
I’m sorry if you’re disappointed to learn that it’s not possible to fully regrow your teeth. However, the future looks bright. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 10 – 15 years we are not limited by our “permanent” adult set of teeth and can easily grow new teeth within our own mouths. It will probably come with a high price tag though so it’s best to take care of the free set you already have!