Need New Teeth?

A researcher in the UK, Professor Paul Sharpe or Kings College London, has had success growing new teeth in mice using stem cells. The college has formed a company, Odontis Ltd to commercialize Dr. Sharpe’s research.

This is fascinating research and demonstrates the potential uses of stem cells to regenerate missing or damaged body parts. What I find interesting though, are comments by some dentists in news groups. Several maintained that, despite the predictions that this kind of advance would make dentures obsolete, they expect that people would continue to opt for dentures. They claim that with costs similar to the cost of an implant, only those with higher incomes would opt for the treatment. People with lower incomes would stick with dentures because of the lower cost.

The real question is how insurance companies would cover this treatment. Even at the same cost as an implant, the additional benefits of having a real tooth vs. an artificial tooth might be enough for an insurance company to cover a greater percentage of the cost. It all depends on what the actuaries come up with.

Of course it is all moot until they prove this can be done successfully in humans.