It can be very easy to assume that we are pretty invulnerable; consequences and disease always seem to happen to other people. That is until they don’t. People face sickness and long recovery times every single day, but there are limits to medical science. Although these limits are being pushed back every single day as more research is leading to new breakthroughs and treatments. As a species we have cured, overcome and eradicated a whole host of diseases and afflictions, but perhaps the greatest limitation placed upon our abilities to heal is the frailty of the human body itself.
Knowing your limits
Whilst they are incredible feats of evolution, capable of many amazing things, our bodies are not designed to last. This is evident in many ways, not least the fact that we can break very easily, and although our skin and bones will stitch themselves back together there are some very clear limits on their regenerative capabilities. The most telling of these traits is the fact that our cells are hard coded with limits. The vast majority of cells in our bodies are programmed to only be able to divide a certain number of times, which is why we age and heal less effectively as we get older. Certain cells are more capable of repair than others, and some, such as the teeth, cannot heal themselves at all.
Teeth and Bones
Many people are under the assumption that teeth and bones are pretty much the same thing; they’re both made of calcium. Whilst they both do contain calcium, teeth and bones are very different. Although they contain a lot of other things in small quantities, bones are mostly comprised of collagen, which is essentially protein. This is why the bones can bend and handle pressure as well as being able to heal, they are made of living cells not just minerals. Teeth on the other hand do have a small ‘live’ section in their core with the nerve and dental pulp; but this is surrounded by dentine which is calcified tissue and what we think of as the tooth.
This difference is very important when it comes to treatments; bones are often replaced with materials such as titanium that will last and handle a lot of wear and tear but are often a fairly generic fit. Conversely, teeth are very personal and unique, and if you visit a reputable dentist they will treat them as such. Replacement teeth, partial or complete, need to be crafted carefully to fit the space in the mouth that they are required to fit. Failure to make them have a strong and accurate fit will lead to discomfort and possible damage to the surrounding teeth. This is where innovative new technologies have made things easier for dentists; same day CEREC dentistry, a process that allows teeth to be scanned and recreated whilst you wait, is now commonplace. This means that teeth are fairly easy to replace and protect, as well as ensuring that the replacements are a perfect fit.
So now that teeth are simple to replace, what will medical science present us with next?