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Examining the Promise and Reality of a Tooth Regrowth Drug

HEALTH & MEDICINEExamining the Promise and Reality of a Tooth Regrowth Drug

Recently, a debate has been reverberating in the media about a Japanese scientist’s announcement that a drug for tooth growth could be developed within this decade. This news electrified the medical community, as well as patients who rely on dental implants and prosthetics. However, it’s important to temper our emotions on this matter. Such a drug would have to undergo extensive clinical trials to confirm its efficacy and safety before it could be approved for use. During these planned tests, it could become clear that the drug has negative effects on the immune system, causing allergic or autoimmunity reactions. Moreover, the potential process of tooth regrowth would need to be closely monitored to prevent serious issues with the bite system and chewing function. And even if the drug does herald a new era in dentistry, many years will pass before it even reaches Poland. Physicians themselves would also have to undergo numerous trainings to be able to administer it to patients. And this process won’t be easy to implement.

A Great Step Forward for Dentistry

Doctor Katsu Takahashi and his team in Japan are researching a drug to promote tooth growth, a fascinating step forward in the field of dentistry. The development of such a drug is theoretically possible. Newly discovered properties of the USAG-1 gene, which limits tooth growth in mice, seem promising. However, the efficacy and safety of a drug that would block USAG-1 in humans must be confirmed in clinical trials.

This groundbreaking dental endeavor is backed by the Japanese Agency for Medical Research and Development. A total of ten medical institutions and research institutes across the country are working on this project. While this is a broad-ranging study, it does not imply a swift conclusion, nor does it guarantee success.

Clinical trials involving humans are planned for July, according to information from the Kitano Medical Research Institute. Dr. Takahashi also confirms predictions that the drug could be fully available by 2030, a prospect that sparks great hope. However, it’s important to remember that the proposed timetable seems overly optimistic, especially considering that Dr. Takahashi has been working on this issue for many years. Potential risks, complications, and regulatory procedures cannot be brushed aside. It is crucial to closely monitor patients during clinical trials, and to analyze the long-term effects of the drug on their health.

Initially, the drug will be administered to children aged 2-6 who suffer from anodontia, a complete or partial lack of tooth formation. This focus on this particular age group for the first clinical trial may relate to the intense development of unerupted teeth in early childhood. Factors such as hormone function and environmental influences—which could affect tooth development and arrangement—operate over a relatively short period in this age group. In later stages, the drug would be administered to older patients who have lost teeth due to accidents or chronic diseases, for example.

At this stage, there are concerns about how the drug will affect older people who are influenced by completely different hormones than young people. There’s a fear that using this solution in seniors could result in a less-than-beneficial outcome.

Revolution is Still Far Off

Of course, this is a vision of the future, but if the drug proves effective and, most importantly, safe, it could revolutionize modern dentistry, providing patients with a way to avoid prosthetics and implants. However, this does not mean that one could “grow” several versions of the same tooth, thereby bypassing the unpleasant task of drilling. Dental care will still be necessary—nothing will change in that regard. However, restoring a natural smile would undoubtedly improve quality of life. If a person can have their own natural teeth, they are always the best option.

It must also be admitted that not every patient qualifies for implant treatment due to age constraints. Teenagers should not receive dental implants due to incomplete bone development. Changes that occur among young people within the maxillofacial area, tooth ridge, and tooth arrangement often negate the effects of implant-prosthetic treatment. Additionally, the presence of cancer is also a contraindication. Implant procedures are also not performed on patients who constantly have thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) and prolonged bleeding or coagulation times. Pregnant women are also not allowed to receive implants. And dental implants may not be an option for those who have a low platelet count. For these patients, a tooth growth drug may be the only option, although this is yet unknown. Based on current knowledge, the use of such a drug would likely be prohibited in pregnant women and oncology patients.

Nonetheless, as with any innovative solution, there are questions about safety, efficacy, unexpected side effects, and potential treatment costs, which are presumably very high. At the moment, it is difficult to predict since we do not yet know the potential cost of such a drug or whether it will even be developed and released. Doctors will first need to undergo special training to know who they can administer the drug to and when. It is evident that implantologists need not fear that this innovative method will steal their jobs in a few years, but they should certainly keep an eye on scientific progress in this area.

There’s also a fear that even if this drug is developed, the price could be a barrier for the average patient. This type of novelty on the market will likely be very expensive for a long time, limiting its accessibility. Over time, the value of this product will likely fall, but a significant amount of time will pass before this happens—we’re talking years, not months. Unfortunately, this is typically how it works when introducing innovative solutions to the market.

It’s worth mentioning that implant treatment methods, which were unimaginable even to doctors 20-30 years ago, are now common practice, as are orthodontics. However, it’s important to remember that genetic therapy has the potential to affect the entire human body and could be more invasive than implant placement. Another question is whether Polish patients will be open to such changes, not taking into account the cost. Initially, there may be a high level of resistance due to unfamiliarity with the solution. Over time, provided that the solution is well received and does not cause major problems, the proportion of interested patients will surely increase. However, such a process could take approximately 8-10 years, considering a highly optimistic scenario in which everything goes well and there are no or few side effects.

If scientists succeed, it’s possible that this new therapy will become an alternative for people who have lost teeth or never had them due to anodontia. However, it should be emphasized that patients with tooth loss often have undeveloped, diminished dental ridges. This would limit tooth growth, so this would also require stimulation of bone base development needed to support teeth.

Potential Risks

However, after conducting extensive research, it could turn out that the drug affects the patient’s immune system. This could potentially lead to allergic or autoimmune reactions, which in turn could harm the health of the gums and periodontal tissues. If tooth regrowth is not carefully monitored, teeth could grow incorrectly, leading to problems with the bite system and chewing function. Patients taking tooth growth medication may also be on other medications, potentially leading to unpredictable interactions that could affect their oral health. These threats are also real.

Should the drug cause side effects, these could impact gum health, causing inflammation, bleeding, or other periodontological issues. Therefore, it is essential to closely monitor patients during clinical trials and draw appropriate conclusions. Analysing the long-term effects of the drug on their periodontological health is also important.

Dr. Takahashi’s vision of tooth regrowth becoming the third option alongside dentures and implants is truly fascinating. However, making this idea a reality requires solid clinical evidence and many more years of continued research. Knowing how these things work, this is unlikely to be achieved by 2030. Time will tell whether this innovative therapy will become a reality and bring potential benefits to patients worldwide.

This article was authored by Dr. Piotr Przybylski, an implantologist at IMPLANT MEDICAL clinic.

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