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Feb 22

Studying alligator teeth may change the future of dentistry

Studying alligator teeth may change the future of dentistry

Living in Florida, you may have had your share of alligator encounters and have probably developed a healthy fear of these dangerous yet fascinating creatures. And if you are like most people, you would probably fear an alligator’s mouth and teeth more than any other part of it. But you might start looking at an alligator’s mouth differently after you find out that these very same teeth, teeth that have always struck fear in the hearts of children and small dogs, could change the future of dentistry forever.

When a person loses a tooth, he or she has a few options – they can get an implant, a crown, a bridge –  or they can even just leave it alone and continue their lives with the gap. When an alligator loses a tooth, they grow a new one. Simple as that.

The Facts

A single alligator can produce between 2,000 and 3,000 teeth in a lifetime, reproducing each tooth up to fifty times depending on necessity. This regrowth is possible because alligators grow teeth in sets of three: The first tooth is the adult tooth, the tooth that is currently in the alligator’s mouth. The second tooth is a back-up tooth, or a “baby” tooth, that lies in wait ready to replace the adult tooth if need-be. The third tooth is more the idea of a tooth, a system of stem cells ready to build a new tooth when the need appears.

Despite obvious differences in sharpness and bite pressure, humans and alligators actually have very similar teeth, the main difference being that while alligators have these three sets of teeth, humans only have the first two. Once a person’s baby tooth has been replaced by their adult tooth, that is it. As humans we do get a second chance but, unlike alligators, not a third, fourth, or fifth, etc.

What This Means For You

At this point you may be thinking that this is all very nice and interesting, but what does this mean for you and specifically, what does this mean for your teeth? Well, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, scientists believe that they are getting closer every day to discovering the alligators’ secret.  More studies are needed, and luckily scientists are at no shortage of text subjects as alligators are only one type of animal that is capable of regrowing teeth or limbs.

This may not be the best news for dentists, as tooth regeneration would make bridges, crowns, and dentures a thing of the past, services which many dentists rely on for patients and income. In the not too distant future, losing a tooth may be as insignificant as losing an earring, and its replacement may be just as easy. And that, as any alligator would tell you, is something to smile about.


Sources:   study-gives-clues-to-regrowing-lost-teeth-676363.html


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