In a move that may kill off the dentist forever, researchers have been able to regenerate teeth in ferrets.
As Miguel de Cervantes once wrote, every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond. Which was certainly true in 1605, and indeed, in every year before this one. Lo, it seems that the iron grip that dentists have on our bank accounts may soon be broken, as a pioneering few have figured out how to regrow teeth.
Very simply put, the hands of science have inhibited the work of the USAG-1 gene, and thus, reversing the decay of our once-pearly whites. Eventually, the researchers noted, we’ll be able to grow a full set of new teeth.
In a statement, study author Katsu Takahashi explained that “we knew that suppressing USAG-1 benefits tooth growth. What we did not know was whether it would be enough.”
As a notable science publication with a naughty name put it, “The team’s results indicate that inhibiting the gene’s activity allows for a sufficient increase in BMP for the growth of new teeth. While this technique is nowhere near ready to be trialled on humans, the researchers did test the antibody on ferrets. These animals have similar dental patterns to humans, and, like us, are diphyodont, meaning they have a set of milk teeth that are later replaced by adult teeth. Results indicated that the treatment is just as effective for ferrets, with a single dose of the antibody sparking the generation of a whole tooth. This suggests that the technique may work for humans, too, although a number of safety concerns will need to be overcome before this can be tested.”
However, the cynic in me believes that the dentists of tomorrow will rise up and oppose it. In the last year alone, the American dentistry industry registered a whopping $138 billion in revenue. Of course, this a worldwide problem, one that has birthed the concept of dental tourism, where those who cannot afford the work they need at home, travel abroad, because, somehow, it is cheaper.
In July 2019, the ABC told the story of a dentist that travels to the far reaches of Australia to treat those who are unable to secure regular dental services, be it cost or availability. The dentist in question, Dr Jalal Khan, took the opportunity to push for his expertise to be covered by an umbrella system similar to Medicare, stating “…there is definitely a need for there to be a universal dental scheme that is delivered by the federal government,” he said.
Until he can grow our own, consider that a happy medium.