A nagging toothache and the prospect of the dentists drill is enough to make anyone uneasy. However having a tooth pulled is only the first step. Extracted teeth can be replaced with artificial implants embedded into the jawbone. Any damage to this bone must first be repaired using bone grafts, although their restorative effects are diminished by their tendency to be absorbed by surrounding tissue. Investigating alternative graft materials, researchers turned to teeth. Human teeth were crushed and demineralised to expose factors that encourage bone growth. Skull holes in rats with a bone defect were grafted with teeth particles varying in size, from 0.2 (top) to 1 millimetre (bottom). Particles were either untreated (left) or demineralised partially (middle) or completely (right). Using a technique called micro-CT revealed the extent of bone regrowth. The winning combination and best bet for future dental grafts? The 1 mm partially demineralised particles.
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