Researchers working on this treatment estimate that human trials of the procedure should begin within the next decade. 

W

hile at my most recent teeth cleaning appointment, my dentist imparted an interesting bit of news about the state of dental hygiene. It seems that while the science and technology of dentistry are far more advanced than in previous generations, our diets have become so much less healthy that even with the improved dentistry our collective teeth are as bad as ever. This is good news for dentists, since it means that no matter how good they get at their jobs, we will always find a way to ruin our teeth. But what if we could simply regrow them? This is the next step in dental technology, and several recent experiments have shown it could be right around the corner.

The experiments in question involved regrowing pulp – the living tissue inside teeth – on animals, and they have been quite successful. The procedure is similar to root canal surgery (properly termed endodontic therapy), except that instead of removing tissue and replacing it with cement, the tooth is injected with a gelatin-like substance that contains stem cells and promotes the growing of pulp.

Researchers working on this treatment estimate that human trials of the procedure should begin within the next decade.

This video provides a bit more information:

The question of course is, will technology like this lead to further disregard for dental hygiene?  If teeth become easily regrowable, what will be the motivation to avoid food that causes tooth decay or do things like brushing and flossing?

This appears to be the potential downside of medical advances in general: when people believe that medical science can fix everything, they worry less about engaging in risky behaviors. There is some evidence to suggest that advancements in the treatment of HIV/AIDS have led to riskier sexual behavior among young people who believe that the disease has been cured.

Of course, no one would argue that treatments like regrowable teeth should be abandoned simply because they might contribute to unhealthy behavior, but it’s worth noting that there’s a reason why dentists are able to charge so much money. The better they get at their job, the worse we get at not needing to see them.