Dr. Gareth Fraser

Sharks and Human Tooth Regeneration

May 4th, 2016

Sharks can seem scary, but did you know they can help us learn more about tooth regeneration? In December 2015, we blogged about Lake Malawi cichlids and their process of regenerating teeth. Turns out we can also discover properties of tooth regeneration from other animals underwater!

Tooth Loss (Edentulism)

Before finding ways to regenerate teeth, we need to learn more about the problem of human tooth loss. Take a look at these facts from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention:

  • The average number of teeth that adults aged 20-64 have: 24.92 (as opposed to a full 32)
  • 3.75% of adults between 20 and 64 have no remaining teeth
  • Older, less-educated Black or Hispanic adults who smoke and have lower incomes are more likely to have fewer teeth
  • 27% of adults aged 20-64 had untreated tooth decay
  • 52% of adults between 20 and 64 had lost at least one tooth from dental disease
  • Cavities and untreated tooth decay are the main causes of tooth loss in adults

Fun Facts about Sharks

Now that we've studied human teeth loss, let's take some time to learn about teeth in sharks:

  • The number of teeth that sharks can have up to: 3,000!
  • Human teeth are set in the jaw, but shark teeth are fixed in the gums
  • Sharks can constantly regrow their teeth - they lose over 30,000 in a lifetime!
  • Genes in sharks are linked to the development and regeneration of teeth
  • Humans have these same genes - Dr. Gareth Fraser from the University of Sheffield and his team claim that this conclusion can lead to the development of more treatments for human tooth loss!

What's the Connection Between Sharks and Humans?

By studying gene expression in the teeth development of catshark embryos, Dr. Fraser's team discovered that certain genes contributed to creation of a set of epithelial cells called dental lamina. These cells were responsible for the regeneration of teeth in sharks. What's interesting is that humans have the same genes that help form dental lamina, which lead to the formation of the growth of both baby and adult teeth! However, the dental lamina disappears after all adult teeth have grown in.

The team also observed that these genes have been around for 450 million years in sharks and could be the force behind tooth development of all vertebrates. Sharks have held these genes due to the fact that maintaining their teeth are crucial for hunting, but the ability for humans to regenerate teeth has evolved to disappear.

Feel free to contact Drs. Ali & Ali and their newest addition to the team, Dr. Zarah Ali, if you have any thoughts or concerns. The caring team at Wellesley Dental Group will be happy to answer your questions! Contact us today at 781-237-9071 or smile@wellesleydentalgroup.com to set up an appointment and consultation.

Your little ones and teens are welcome to visit our pediatric dentist Dr. VanDr. Emad is happy to help with your orthodontic needs. For wisdom teeth extractions or any other periodontal or oral surgery needs, Dr. Ghazi would be more than willing to help.






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