Researchers: Reptiles Could Hold the Key to Regrowing Missing Teeth

Posted on October 9, 2013

Scientists are studying how alligators renew their giant teeth in a bid to help humans who suffer dental problems, according to, citing a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. With alligators having an average of 80 teeth at any one time—and 50 sets of replacements to last their lifetime—the giant reptiles can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime, and researchers hope to find a way to replicate this process in humans.

Most vertebrates can renew teeth throughout their lives whereas humans’ are naturally replaced only once. To uncover the chemical mechanisms of tooth renewal, professor Cheng-Ming Chuong and colleagues at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California studied repetitive tooth formation in American alligators.

Through a combination of molecular analysis and scanning techniques the researchers showed each alligator tooth is a complex unit of three components in different developmental stages. These are structured to facilitate replacement once they are dislodged, says the study.

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