As promised I have been to the annual British Society of Restorative Dentists (BSRD) meeting, this year held in Brighton, and was able to hear some fascinating views on how to restore teeth and mouths. The conference covered all aspects of restorative work (crowns and fillings etc.) giving equal weight to conventional techniques and modern adhesive techniques. It also gave us a great view of the future with a brilliant insight into the science of growing teeth from stem cells.
This process, whereby the stem cells from which all teeth grow are identified and then implanted in to the jaw bone, has been developed over the past 15 years and is slowly coming of age. There have been no attempts to try this in humans yet but the technology has been shown to be very successful in animal studies. The stem cells needed are found in, amongst other places, the pulp of deciduous or milk teeth. The proposed treatment scenario is that exfoliated milk teeth would be stored and the pulp frozen to give a reservoir of stem cells for use later in life if the second set are lost or damaged beyond repair. Not surprisingly there is already a website offering this service,although the techniques required to carry out this procedure are not yet developed. The gamble that the website (www.bioeden.com) is asking people to take is basically a financial one ($600 or there abouts) to see if the techniques do indeed get developed and are viable. It works on the principle of “better to have and not need then to need and not have” and is probably not an unreasonable proposition albeit a little premature. My son, Oscar, is three years old and will start loosing teeth in 3 years time. I do not expect to see the technology perfected by then but by the time he stops loosing teeth in approximately 10 years it may well be the case that we are all banking our children’s milk teeth to have as an emergency back up should their second set fail to form properly or become damaged beyond repair. My gut feeling is that at least one of his teeth and his elders sisters will be used in this way but not for at least five years time, and probably not at the expense of the tooth fairy’s livelihood.