Expert Commentary: John J. Kelly, DDS 10/27/2009

Posted by Admin on October 27, 2009
According to a recent research there has been a gene identified that makes our bodies grow enamel. This discovery now lets us see a clearer picture of how teeth form and could create new opportunities in dental treatments.  Researchers and scientists have been looking for ways to strengthen or replace enamel for a long time. Currently, there are products in the form of pastes that try to repair enamel. These products proclaim to effectively promote the re-calcification of decalcified enamel to thereby positively suppress any dental caries. With these recent genetic discoveries it now seems possible that we may be able to completely replace enamel instead of just repairing it.

After reading the news about this discovery it became apparent how this type of technology may be applied to future dental health care. Issues where tooth enamel has broken down from erosion, decay, diet, poor hygiene, and function this type of enamel replacement may be significant. Also, this genetic research might apply to complete replacement of missing teeth and some genetic deficiencies such as Ameleogenisis Imperfecta.

The concerns that I might have come from more a long term functional perspective.  How would we prevent enamel wear from re-occurring or how will we provide a healthy environment for the enamel to proliferate? The new enamel can replace missing structures, but in some cases there is no room to build back what was lost.  Once enamel has either been worn down, or decayed away a collapse occurs. Our muscles that support the jaw change, and the way our teeth fit together adapt to this new dysfunctional state.  Repairing the enamel is one thing, but to give back what was lost as far as function requires more understanding. Unfortunately, dentistry tends to look at patients simply as teeth that need to be fixed without understanding the far-reaching aspects of function and physiology.

While there is a lot of work ahead before the science moves from the research lab to the dental office, this does provide hope for people who have flawed tooth enamel including those who have lost their teeth.

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