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If you still need surgery or dental implants, it will be some time before you can actually get a new set of living teeth that can be transplanted into your mouth. But MacDougall and her colleagues have already figured out how to grow cementum, the tooth substance that is normally destroyed with periodontal disease, as well as tooth enamel. They have yet to find how to integrate these lab-produced substances into the bone structure of living teeth. Even if this integration is possible, another route may prove even more effective. "Now we are looking at repairing a tooth at the cavity site from the bottom up by stimulating cells that are still viable in the tooth," MacDougall said. To figure out how to stimulate these cells, they are looking at sharks, who regrow their teeth as they lose them. If researchers can learn how sharks do this — or determine how to turn on the genes in human beings that do this — you may be able to go to the dentist and have your teeth regrown without them ever leaving your mouth. But these new technological innovations are about 20 years away, according to experts. Meanwhile, it's a good idea to keep caring for the teeth you have.
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