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Canadian Scientists Regrow Teeth 220

Posted by samzenpus
from the throw-out-your-toothbrush dept.
54mc writes "APL reports that Canadian Scientists have created the first device able to regrow teeth and bones. The researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton filed patents earlier this month in the United States for the tool based on low-intensity pulsed ultrasound technology after testing it on a dozen dental patients in Canada."
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Canadian Scientists Regrow Teeth

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  • Amazing (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:16AM (#15626780)
    I didn't believe in the tooth fairy until I saw my dentist in loafers.

    So if you are out there, Mr. Dentist man, you can now officially BITE ME!
  • by supafly613 (413120) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:17AM (#15626785)
    This was a 2 phase discovery:

    Phase 1 - Invent a sport where a piece of equipment that, at times, travels towards your face at 160 km/hour and weighs only 170 grams.

    Phase 2 - Invent a way to grow teeth back due to resulting injury from Phase 1

    It's a Canadian make-work program :)
    • I don't understand why people always associate Hockey with missing teeth. For the past 30 years or so goalies have been wearing face shields, nearly eliminating their chances of getting teeth knocked out.

      Players who aren't goalies still don't wear face shields in 2006, however most facial injuries from hockey involve someone getting hit with the end of a stick or getting crushed into the boards by a bad hit, NOT getting hit with a puck (though it does happen sometimes).

      • I'm not a hockey fan so I don't remember the guys name but There was a famous player way-back-when that lost a few teeth. He became sort of the face of hockey at the time with his toothless grin and thus the stereotype.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I think you are talking about Bobby Clarke, the current GM of the Flyers. He had one of those great hockey smiles, where you could slide a puck between the gap in his smile. The photo you are thinking of I believe was when the Flyers won the cup in the 70's (he played there before becoming the GM).

          Oh, and it isn't a sterotype. There are very few pro players who haven't lost a few chicklets along the way. Between sticks, pucks, hard hits, solid boards, and fights, about the only players who aren't missing a
        • Or the hockey coaches at my highschool. They had a couple gaps. But only one of two was canadian. Yes, the teeth were knocked out playing hockey. It was during pickup games as teenagers where full gear wasn't worn. So organized hockey may no longer have the missing teeth stigma, but just getting together on a frozen pond without even mouthguards can result in tooth loss.
      • by crossmr (957846)
        it can happen frequently. Darren McCarty got hit in the face twice in the same series against anaheim, during which the anaheim fans booed him as he lay on the ice (thats another story).
        They do take a lot of sticks in the face, and I'm not sure I buy this whole "a visor limits me" thing. I'm sure someone can design a visor that doesn't "limit" them. Were I in the NHL, I wouldn't hesitate to wear a full face mask, especially playing as a defenseman where I'd block a lot of shots.

      • AFAIK where I come from, players are required to have face shields. It seems it's still not mandated in the NHL..
        • by cellocgw (617879)

          AFAIK where I come from, players are required to have face shields. It seems it's still not mandated in the NHL..

          It's worse than that. The NHL bans full face shields (with exceptions for players recovering from broken cheekbones,jawbones, etc). It's an incredibly stupid rule.
        • It varies by league and arena. Everywhere I played in the Northeast USA (PA/NJ/NY), full face shields were requied. When I moved to Southern California, I was shocked to learn that they weren't required. There were only two people on my team who chose not to wear them, and guess who both took pucks to the face? Fortunately in both incidents, the pucks weren't moving fast, and they hit with the large flat surface (not the edge).
      • Not even the audience is safe in hockey. I was at an NHL game in Columbus a couple years back where a puck hit a girl in the audience. But it didn't just break teeth, it killed her. The players aren't the only ones who get hurt by pucks.
      • by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @12:45PM (#15629160) Homepage
        "I don't understand why people always associate Hockey with missing teeth."

        Uh, because of all the missing teeth?

        This story was front page news in the Globe and Mail (Canada's national newspaper) yesterday a with the headline "new hope for hocky players" (or something like that) and had pictures of vintage and current toothless hocky players.

      • I recall a TV commercial from around 10 years ago that laid this out quite nicely. In fact I think it was a Mastercard commercial. It showed a hockey team and went out to list all of the dental procedures that they as a team had underwent. It basically went something like:

        20 pieces of bridgework
        36 crowns
        56 false teeth
        ## something else
        and then the priceless punchline.

        The numbers were incredible. Of a team of like 2 dozen people they had underwent hundreds of dental procedures. Hockey is single-h

    • Big deal. It's been done. I saw it in a Harry Potter movie. Growing bones is a nasty business.
  • by nietsch (112711) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:17AM (#15626786) Homepage Journal
    "with low frequency ultrasound pulses" is pretty uninformative for me. If they can regrow theeth, do they first have to implant a 'seed' that will focus the growth? Every theeth has a quite specific form, how will this device influence that?

    Or can it be that somebody patented a possible way to stimulate bone & tooth growth and some reporter let his fantasy run wild on it?
  • by PixelPirate (984935) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:19AM (#15626790)
    This notice hereby notifies you, Tooth Fairy that you are hereby no longer needed as your job has been outsourced to Canada. We hope you will find our severance package of 6 months teeth as well as full dental to be more than generous. Also note that you are hereby banned from acting in the capacity of ortho-collector for a period of 8 years, and any attmpt to circumvent this will lead to a termination of the aforementioned benefits.

    -The Management
    • This notice hereby notifies you, Tooth Fairy that you are hereby no longer needed as your job has been outsourced to Canada.

      *pssst*
      Think of all the money you could make knocking your own teech out & selling them to the tooth fairy. ;)
    • I disagree. Now we can grow more and more teeth in labs then sell them to the tooth fairy! I think I have now solved the missing link of the age old equation:


      Step 1: Grow Teeth
      Step 2: ???
      Step 3: PROFIT!

  • Lord know Canada is a great place to research tooth replacement, considering that Maine is so close by! We could really use some of that stuff down here!

    Gramps is getting sick of eating through a straw.
    • Canada is a great place to research tooth replacement, considering that Maine is so close by!

      This research was done in EDMONTON...in ALBERTA. Los Angeles is closer to Edmonton than any place in Maine. Incidentally the University of Alberta (my alma mater) has arguably the best schools of dentistry in Canada--of course there aren't many to choose from but it's pretty world-class. The U of A is actually recognised internationally for its research in many areas of life sciences (it has contributed to major
  • by ABeowulfCluster (854634) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:23AM (#15626800)
    .. test this on other body parts. Just sayin.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:29AM (#15626814)
    "Canadian Scientists Regrow Teeth"
    A group of Canadian scientists in the age from 4 to 10 has successfully regrown their teeth after they mysteriously lost them.
  • For Suckers (Score:3, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:30AM (#15626818) Homepage
    Thee ma ?
    I thold you bruthing your theeth wath fo thuckerth !
  • by pjt48108 (321212)
    That's a story with bite!
  • Root canal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by paulhar (652995) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:33AM (#15626833)
    > Chen helped create the tiny ultrasound machine that gently massages gums and stimulates tooth growth from the root once inserted into a person's mouth, mounted on braces or a removable plastic crown.

    As several of my teeth have gone the way of the fairy, I wonder how this "treatment" copes with teeth that have been root canal filled.

    And what colour does the new tooth grow back at? It it's pure white - fantastic as it'll put lots of whiting products out of business, but bad as it'll have the pringles effect; once you start you'll have to have all your front/visible teeth done, even if they are just discoloured.
    • once you start you'll have to have all your front/visible teeth done, even if they are just discoloured.

      Or you could just, you know, brush them..... Oh wait.
      • Im sure we have done the waiting part allready =)
      • Speaking as someone whose teeth were basically wrecked by an incompetent orthodontist years ago, I can promise you that not everyone with dental problems brought them upon themselves. My dentist often comments on how good my oral hygiene is, yet I have some sort of filling in nearly every tooth in my mouth.

    • Re:Root canal? (Score:3, Informative)

      by schon (31600)
      I wonder how this "treatment" copes with teeth that have been root canal filled.

      Saw this on the news last night - they said that it will repair root canals.

      About the only thing it won't do is regrow a tooth that's been removed - it needs cells to start with.
      • Re:Root canal? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by milletre (154241)
        >I wonder how this "treatment" copes with teeth that have been root canal filled.

        Saw this on the news last night - they said that it will repair root canals.

        About the only thing it won't do is regrow a tooth that's been removed - it needs cells to start with.

        Sounds pie-in-the-sky at the moment to me. It may be that there is some viable periodontal ligament around necrotic teeth, but there's simply no living tooth-producing tissue in them (odontoblasts). Odontoblasts are found at the pulp-dentin border,

    • If the tooth grows back pure white it would more likely put a lot of money in the pockets of the tooth whitening companies than put them out of business. It's probably going to be a lot less painful and expensive to just whiten the other teeth. I know this can be a problem with porcelain caps on broken teeth. They are so much whiter than the other teeth that it makes your teeth look really bad. So dentists use a combined strategy of whitening the other teeth and staining the cap untill they're about equ
  • What with all those hockey players losing teeth. It was either there or Kentucky where people also don't have teeth. Interestingly that's where the toothbrush was invented. Otherwise it would have been called the teethbrush.

    Thanks, I'll be here all week, enjoy the veal.

    (Disclaimer: I am a Kentuckian)
  • From TFA:

    With the help of Chen and Ying Tsui, another engineering professor, the initial massive handheld device was shrunk to fit inside a person's mouth.

    But they had something like this working in the late 1990s so for part of the last seven years they have been mucking around making a minature version of their machine. A proper engineering job would have taken six months, max, and they could have kept working on the science.

    Sorry to bitch about this but I see too much improvisation going on and not en


    • A proper engineering job would have taken six months, max, and they could have kept working on the science.

      You can figure out how long it would take to engineer a device you've just heard of all of 20 minutes ago from a short, non-technical article posted on slashdot?
    • There might have been a bit of work going on to test it, make sure it works properly, doesn't cause cancer, etc. You know, to make sure it's safe to use in people. Nobody really cares if a rabbit grows giant buck teeth.

      The article did say the larger version is approved in Canada and the US, which means some pretty extensive testing.
  • by jkrise (535370) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:44AM (#15626857) Journal
    until they prove it on these (currently) toothless specimens:
    1. The Justice dept. (SCO vs IBM)
    2. The anti-trust dept. (MS vs US)
    3. Other suggestions welcome...
  • by KarMax (720996) <KarMax@TEAgmail.com minus caffeine> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:47AM (#15626862) Homepage
    This is amazing... i never imagine that this could be possible.

    It can also stimulate jawbone growth to fix a person's crooked smile and may eventually allow people to grow taller by stimulating bone growth, Chen said.
    I'm far away to know something about odontology, so i ask to the slashdot doctors:
    This stimulation process could be used to cure bone illness, like Osteoporosis [wikipedia.org] or Osteosarcoma [wikipedia.org] ??

    Thanks in advance.
    • Actually, I was more thinking of Using this on Space Travelers to stave off the Bone Density Loss that inevitably (??) occurrs... Sounds like One of the big problems solved...MMmmmmmm... Full Body Ultrasound....

      Or- yeah...I suppose you could also use it to treat/cure degenerative bone loss symptoms. No reason it can't have multiple applications...Except maybe Patent law.
    • IANAD (but I do have a Pharmacy degree). But most likely this could not be used to cure osteosarcoma, as stimulating growth of a cancer is probably not the best idea.

      As for osteoporosis, I would suspect stimulating growth is not the right way to go either -- the bones are there, it's the structure of the bone that is weakened. Exercise, calcium intake, Vitamin D intake, and sometimes Fosamax (slows down resorption of calcium) or hormone regimens (still experimental) are the treatments du jour.
      • But most likely this could not be used to cure osteosarcoma, as stimulating growth of a cancer is probably not the best idea.

        I think his point assumed that the standard treatment for osteosarcoma is to remove a large chunk of bone. After that, it might be handy to grow the bone back rather than implant large numbers of rods/pins/screws and donor bone tissue that could be rejected.
    • Can it cure crippling bone-itis?
  • by PoprocksCk (756380) <poprocks@gmail.org> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:55AM (#15626877) Homepage Journal
    I don't need no stinkin' "real" teeth. My false teeth are just fine, thank you very much! Hell, I can even eat corn on the cob, if someone cuts it off the cob and then mashes it up into a fine paste!
  • by Khaed (544779) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:57AM (#15626881)
    We can grow teeth now. Next step, growing teeth in places not the mouth.

    Now all those nightmares I have about a woman with teeth in her vagina are going to come true.

    Thanks a lot Canada!!
  • Horse Hockey! (Score:5, Informative)

    by wdkeeper1 (541337) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @07:13AM (#15626930)
    Horse hockey on the "growing a new tooth" thing, but I can see repairing damaged teeth, depending on the cause of the damage. You need the presence of odontoblasts, etc in order for a new tooth to grow. That guy Chen is an engineer, not a dentist. I'm thinking he doesn't really understand how teeth form and grow, so he's got high hopes for his invention. The root structure of teeth is covered in cementum and dentin, which are repairable, so it makes sense that teeth with root resorption may be fixed by the ultrasonic thing. But to completely grow new teeth, you'd have to have "tooth stem cells" in the area, and those stem cells would have to know what size and shape of tooth to form for that area. I don't see that one happening. I also don't see damaged enamel being fixed by this thing; once enamel is gone, it's pretty much gone.
    • Yes, growing back teeth after a game of "horse hockey" would be a good application for this technology. : )
    • There is no reason to believe that 'tooth stem cells' wouldn't 'know' how to regrow the tooth. In fact, there is sufficient evidence that hypothetical 'tooth stem cells' would 'know' exactly how to regrow the tooth. Research in animals with regenerative capacity in certain tissues/organs has shown that the process of regeneration very closely mimics the process of the initial growth and development of that tissue during embryonic/larval stages. We're talking the same profile of gene expression and protein s
    • You need the presence of odontoblasts, etc in order for a new tooth to grow.

      Put this together with these guys [bbc.co.uk] and we could have a solution. That story dated 2004 says: "it could be five years before the technology is widely available to the general public"; probably too optimistic though.

    • Re:Horse Hockey! (Score:5, Informative)

      by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @12:11PM (#15628835)
      I also don't see damaged enamel being fixed by this thing; once enamel is gone, it's pretty much gone.

      I'm not sure about the rest, but this bit is wrong. Tooth enamel is worn down all the time by your teeth being used, both from abrasion and acidity; this is the normal way they are supposed to work. It is continually replaced by your body, through a chemical process based around your saliva that deposits minerals on the teeth from the outside. So long as the environment in your mouth is not acidic (ie, you haven't been eating sugary food recently) and your diet supplies all the necessary minerals (mostly calcium), fresh enamel will be deposited. Damaged enamel doesn't really need "fixing", you can just let it reform.

      The reason why people tend to think that it can't reform is because the process that grows the teeth in the first place can't be repeated - that deposits enamel in a completely different manner. Also, the reenameling process is quite slow and will only work if you don't snack on sugary things all day.

      The problem is when the tooth is damaged below the level of the enamel; this can't be regrown currently (and prevents the tooth from re-enameling over the top) because the damage from eating progresses faster than the tooth can heal. If the enamel has been worn through completely, damage to the tooth below is inevitable - that's when your dentist drills it out and fills it. If this invention can do something about that, it's a significant step forward.
  • Just great, the people that we refer to as sharks will start to grow back their own teeth, they will never stop being a menace to society now!

    Darn you Canadians!

  • by rocketjam (696072) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @07:20AM (#15626954) Homepage
    Thweet!
  • Exogen (website: http://www.exogen.com/ [exogen.com], warning, flash and WMV alert) is basically an ultrasound device that's supposed to accelerate the healing of fractures. A lot of the media demonstrates the forearm because that was where most of the testing was done. SWMBO's mother broke her upper arm and used this system for a while; it did help...once she quit smoking.

    So this all that different enough to deserve a patent? That it's an implant/crown/etc. instead of an external system.

    The idea of using ultrasound

  • We shall probably need to wait until patents expire before any significant commercialisation of this occurs, but does this, in principle, mean that we can replace diseased teeth new natural ones, rather than replacing them with dentures?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What's next? All I can say is WOW, I've lost s few teeth from gum disease.

    It isn't nearly as impressive as the technological miracle I've experienced the last 2 days.

    I wore glasses since age 7 (yes I'm a nerd). I switched to contacts 4 years ago, and had to have reading glasses as well as contacts. I used to be four-eyes, now that I'm old it's six eyes.

    Then I got a cataract in my left eye. The specialist told me of a new implant that was only approved in 2003, and extra $1900 above what insurance pays. As i
  • Dental technology (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foniksonik (573572) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:24AM (#15627638) Homepage Journal
    I've complained before and will again, that dentistry has been the most underwhelming of 'sciences' for the past 100 years. What advances have we seen since the use of anaesthetics to reduce the pain? We got ultra-violet whitening systems.... and veneers.

    So finally there's some progress. First was the company in florida which has since sort of gone into hiding... they showed a solution of genetically engineered oral bacteria that would take over control of the mouth by out-competing the native breed.. but were engineered to not create cavities. Haven't heard much on that front recently though. Maybe they got bought up by the makers of Crest or something...

    Now we have a device that can regrow eroded tooth material... well it's something at least.

    Maybe I can stop thinking of the whole practice of drilling and gouging and filling in with metals as the most barbaric so-called treatments of any human health problem. Dentistry is still at the equivalent stage of just cutting off the leg when it's broken, rather than fixing it. Hopefully that is about to change.

  • by osgeek (239988) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:25AM (#15627643) Homepage Journal
    I'm curious... when you folks read an article like this, do you automatically believe it?

    Personally, when I see "filed for a patent earlier this month", "testing it on a dozen patients", and "commercialization in two years" -- coupled with a science-fiction-like technology -- I think "BULLSHIT".

    Just add it to the list of other bullshit vaporware impractical/impossible inventions that show up every once in a while trying to grab funding/sucker dollars: holographic memory, ridiculous compression technologies, flying cars, perpetual motion machines, etc.

    I find it pretty amazing that almost all of the responses in this thread just assume that these guys are telling the truth about their "discovery". I'd love to be proven wrong. I'd love to see a new miraculous bone and tooth growing technology be discovered... but scientific and religious claims are easy to make. It's easy to put out a press release. It's hard to prove miraculous things. It's hard to provide evidence for the seemingly-unbelievable.
    • by 2nd Post! (213333)
      How about the fact that published papers [nih.gov] have shown, since at least 1996, that ultrasound can accelerate bone growth.

      If it can accelerate bone growth, it seems a logical enough step for someone to experiement with teeth, and given that it's been ten years since bone growth was seen, why is teeth/jaw regeneration so hard to believe?

      Or is it just because you haven't heard of it, it can't be real?

      Did you also know that light acts simultaneously as both a particle and a wave, depending on how you examine it?
  • Wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by blackbeaktux (525688)
    Innovative and creative approach, and it looks promising. Looks like this one has teeth.

    crickets.chirp()

  • ...of Waffle House waitresses, everywhere.
  • by Petersko (564140) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:05AM (#15627948)
    The American Dental Association has called upon the Canadian Government to put an end to the regrowth of teeth, claiming that the availability of cheap teeth from Canada makes American dentists less interested in improving their techniques.

    Said an A.D.A. spokesperson, "We need prices to remain high so that we can afford to innovate. When people can just get new teeth cheaply by just crossing the border, our strangle-ho.... uh, revenue stream will be jeopardized. The U.S. government must act immediately!"
  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by irrelevant (66554) * on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:25AM (#15628100)
    Can the device be controlled via BlueTooth?

  • Not new exactly (Score:4, Informative)

    by TimmyDee (713324) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:30AM (#15628136) Homepage Journal
    A few years ago, I broke both bones in my forearm -- the radius was broken so badly that I had pulverized a small portion of it so the two parts didn't line up exactly. They didn't notice this in the x-rays (and so couldn't cut into my hip as they hadn't gotten my authorization for that), so they tried artifical (read: cadaver) bone to regrow the spot. Didn't work.

    A few months later, they enrolled me in a trial of a similar sort of ultrasonic technology by which my bone should regrow. They had been getting a 94% success rate with fibias, but the arm was something new. Needless to say, I was one of those lucky minorities that didn't show any growth. Months later, I was back on the table with new bone being brought in from my hip. Six weeks after that, I was healed. While cool, there is certainly no replacement for real bone.
  • Didn't Robert Heinlein once write about dental regrowth technology? Can time travel now be far behind (or ahead)?
    • Sure, Lazarus Long mentions rebudding teeth as a part of a long list of antigeria techniques used at the Howard Clinics in "Time Enough For Love".

      But even he would say it was an obvious step. We've been needing this for as long as there've been people... BUT KUDOS for you, sir, for remembering science fiction didn't start on television and movies. Or anime.

      There's treasure in the golden age of science fiction. A lot more imagination than displayed in current "sci-fi", which is to science fiction as Hostess
  • I really surprised it was the Canadians and not the British who discovered this.
  • I have been waiting for YEARS for the "Genetically modified mouth bactera", the kind that don't cause cavities, to become mainstream... But after a big hubub and fanfare, nope, never heard another peep about it... This is the same damn thing I suspect.
  • "low-intensity pulsed ultrasound"

    If I just hum along outside the office to repopulate my gums, does the Canadian RIA"A" send me a dentist's bill? Or am I covered under socialist health insurance, just like my other piracy is covered by the blank media tax I filled a few shoeboxes with?
  • Whenever I hear the expression "commercialized within two years" it always raises red flags with me. However, the deciding factor for me was this sentence:

    Tarek El-Bialy, a new member of the university's dentistry faculty, first tested the low-intensity pulsed ultrasound treatment to repair dental tissue in rabbits in the late 1990s.

    Like many small mammals, rabbits teeth grow continually their entire life. They have to chew things constantly to keep them trimmed down. This isn't news, it's just plain

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