Alligators May Help Some Human Dental Issues

Scientists are now looking at one of the unique qualities of alligator teeth: the capability the animals have of regrowing their teeth.

At any time, they can have 80 teeth while producing 50 sets of replacement teeth. In their lifetime, they may go through more than 2,000 teeth. This ability to regrow teeth has given scientists the idea to study the way this process happens to aid people who encounter numerous dental issues.

Most vertebrates can replace teeth repeatedly but humans have only one replacement set. In analyzing the replacement process, the researchers will hope to create a way of regrowing human teeth. Alligators, like many other mammals, have teeth implanted in sockets in the jawbone and secondary plates.

The University of Southern California research team has been studying alligators by using molecular analysis and modern scanning techniques. The early findings indicate that there are three parts to the alligator teeth throughout different times in their development. Teeth are ready to replace an old one as soon as the old one falls out.

The information appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.