New technology continually has had a major impact on dental practice, from the development of high-speed handpieces to modern restorative materials. Tissue engineering in the broadest sense unquestionably will affect dental practice significantly within the next 25 years. As an interdisciplinary endeavor, tissue engineering brings the power of modern biological, chemical and physical science to real clinical problems. The impact of tissue engineering likely will be most significant with mineralized tissues, already the focus of substantial research efforts. These efforts will yield numerous clinical dental benefits, including improved treatments for intraosseous periodontal defects, enhanced maxillary and mandibular grafting procedures, perhaps more biological methods to repair teeth after carious damage and possibly even regrowing lost teeth.
In addition, we expect to see a range of other tissue-engineering applications that may promote more rapid healing of oral wounds and ulcers, as well as the use of gene-transfer methods to manipulate salivary proteins and oral microbial colonization patterns. Less common, but still a treatment consideration for the dental profession, will be devices such as the artificial salivary gland and muscle (tongue) or mucosal grafts to replace tissues lost through surgery or trauma. This is an exciting time for biomedical science and its application. Clinical dental practice in 2025 will certainly be different.
Dr. Baum is chief, Gene Therapy and Therapeutics Branch, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. Address reprint requests to Dr. Baum, GTTB/NIDCR/NIH, Bldg. 10, Room 1N113, MSC-1190, Bethesda, Md. 20892.
Dr. Mooney is an associate professor, Biologic and Materials Sciences, Dental School, and Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
The authors thank Dr. Eleni Kousvelari for her encouragement and help with the manuscript. They also are grateful to their many past and present colleagues for making important contributions to their studies.