A breakthrough by scientists could see dentures bite the dust.
Researchers have pinpointed the gene that governs the production of tooth enamel, raising the tantalising possibility of people one day growing extra teeth when needed.
At the very least, it could cut the need for painful fillings.
Experiments in mice have previously shown that the gene, a ‘transcription factor’ called Ctip2, is involved in the immune system and in the development of skin and nerves.
The latest research, from Oregon State University in the U.S., adds enamel production to the list.
The researchers made the link by studying mice genetically engineered to lack the gene.
The animals were born with rudimentary teeth which were ready to erupt but lacked a proper covering of enamel, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
Researcher Dr Chrissa Kioussi said: ‘It’s not unusual for a gene to have multiple functions, but before this we didn’t know what regulated the production of tooth enamel.
‘This is the first transcription factor ever found to control the formation and maturation of ameloblasts, which are the cells that secrete enamel.’
The finding could be applied to human health and, if used in conjunction with fledgling stem cell technology, could one day allow people to grow replacement teeth when needed.