Why Can’t Humans Grow New Teeth?

Brunette woman wearing a striped shirt smiles with her eyes closed and touches her cheeks

Most adult humans have 32 teeth: 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars, 8 molars, and 4 wisdom teeth (which most people need removed). Unlike certain other animals, however, we can’t grow new teeth once baby teeth fall out and our 2nd set of teeth, our permanent teeth, have grown in. Today, our team at Sullivan Family Dental wants to explore why human mouths are different (beyond the obvious!) from those of alligators who can grow new teeth. We also want to share some of the ways we can treat missing teeth to restore your smile!

Human Dentition

Mammals fall into one of two categories: diphyodont dentition (they renew teeth once) or monophyodont dentition (they do not renew teeth). Quick – which category do humans fall in to? If you guess diphyodont dentition, you’re right! We renew our teeth once, generally beginning around age 6 as our baby teeth fall out and are replaced by adult teeth. This lasts until the wisdom emerge around 17-25 years old.

Humans vs. Alligators

Dental scientists have studied alligators for their unique way of growing teeth. Alligator teeth grow in sets of threes that include the adult tooth in the mouth, a replacement tooth in waiting, and a stem cell that can generate into a replacement tooth if necessary. Alligators can repeat this process as necessary throughout their lives – they must go through a ton of teeth with all that chomping!

An alligator at North Myrtle Beach sits on a grassy embankment next to a pond of water

Humans have a similar situation to alligators when we are born: as teeth develop, we have our baby teeth and then replacement adult teeth in waiting. However, we do not have a stem cell that allows us to regrow our adult teeth. Scientists are researching ways of regrowing teeth in hopes that someday we may be able to replicate a process similar to alligators and regrow new adult human teeth.

Treatment for Missing Teeth at Sullivan Family Dental

Dr. Sullivan provides several treatments for missing teeth. Some patients opt for traditional dentures or a dental bridge, while others decide they want a permanent dental implant. Our restorative dental treatments will restore both the look and function of missing teeth. So if you’re interested in learning more about your options for your missing adult teeth, contact us today to schedule a consultation!