Scientists are taking important steps in the development of a groundbreaking drug that could enable teeth to regrow.

Clinical trials are scheduled to begin in July 2025. It is hoped that the drug will be available to dentists by 2030. 

While it is stated that a drug that will allow teeth to regrow will be a world first, the research conducted by the Medical Research Institute Kitano Hospital in Osaka, Japan, aims to bring a "therapeutic drug for patients who are missing all of their adult teeth due to congenital factors" related to genetic or developmental effects that occur before birth.

People with anodontia (the medical term for the complete absence of teeth) have no natural teeth. The condition often occurs in combination with other genetic conditions such as ectodermal dysplasia (defects in hair, nails, teeth, skin and glands). According to information on the Cleveland Clinic website, possible common treatments include dentures and dental implants.  

The condition, also known as dental agenesis, interferes with basic abilities such as chewing, swallowing and speaking from an early age. 

Dr Katsu Takahashi, head of the department of dentistry and oral surgery at the Medical Research Institute Kitano Hospital, said he had been working on the drug since his graduate student days. 

"The idea of new teething is every dentist's dream, and I am confident we can achieve it," Takahashi told Japanese magazine The Mainichi. 

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The research team targeted the growth of "third generation" teeth (the first round of baby teeth followed by permanent adult teeth) in animal models by targeting a gene called USAG-1, which has been found to limit tooth growth in mice.

Takahashi's team developed a neutralising antibody drug that blocks the action of USAG-1, enabling tooth regrowth in mice and ferrets.

The promising results were published in the scientific journal Nature in 2021 and attracted the attention of the global scientific community.

"A drug that enables teeth to regrow will be revolutionary, providing an alternative solution for individuals who have lost teeth due to severe caries or dental diseases," Takahashi said. 

Work is ongoing to make the drug ready for human use. Once the safety and efficacy of the drug is established, the focus will be on treating children aged 2 to 6 years who show signs of anodontia.

Dr Takahashi said he foresees a future where tooth enlargement medicine becomes a third option alongside dentures and implants, offering individuals the chance to regain their natural teeth. 

Editor: David Goodman