Chew on this: We’ll soon be able to grow replacement teeth

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As long as there are hockey players, there will be niche markets for false teeth. But the real news about the future of dentures is that there isn’t much of one.

Toothlessness has declined 60 percent in the United States since 1960. Baby boomers will be the first generation in human history typically to go to their graves with most of their teeth.

And now comes tooth regeneration: growing teeth in adults, on demand, to replace missing ones. Soon.

It turns out wisdom teeth are prolific sources of adult stem cells needed to grow new teeth for you. From scratch. In your adult life, as you need them. In the near future. According to the National Institutes of Health.

For thousands of years, losing teeth has been a routine part of aging. That’s over.

“We’re there, right now,” said Pamela Robey, chief of the Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health. “A lot of people will go and never lose a tooth. With good health care and proper habits, there’s no reason to lose a tooth.”

The introduction of fluoride into drinking water and toothpaste is viewed as one of the 10 greatest public-health accomplishments of the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It did not occur without controversy. In the renowned 1964 black comedy “Dr. Strangelove,” Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) attacks the Soviet Union with nuclear-armed B-52s, hoping to thwart a communist conspiracy to “sap and impurify” the American people with fluoridated water.

Leslie Seldin has some perspective on this. He graduated from dental school in 1966 and was the editor of “The Future of Dentistry,” a report published in 2001 by the American Dental Association.

“When I was growing up” — in the ’50s — “reaching the teen years you’d develop enormous amounts of decay,” he said. It wasn’t until the ’60s, when most baby boomers were growing up, that fluoridation really started having a major impact.

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