New knowledge on the cellular makeup and growth of teeth can expedite developments in regenerative dentistry, as well as the treatment of tooth sensitivity. The study, which was conducted at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, is published in Nature Communications.

Teeth develop through a complex process in which soft tissue, with connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels, are bonded with three different types of hard tissue into a functional body part. As an explanatory model for this process, scientists often use the mouse incisor, which grows continuously and is renewed throughout the animal’s life.

Despite the fact that the mouse incisor has often been studied in a developmental context, many fundamental questions about the various tooth cells, stem cells and their differentiation and cellular dynamics remain to be answered.

Using a single-cell RNA-sequencing method and genetic tracing, researchers at Karolinska Institutet, the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, and Harvard University in the USA have now identified and characterised all cell populations in mouse teeth and in young growing and adult human teeth.

Some of the findings can also explain certain complicated aspects of the immune system in teeth, and others shed new light on the formation of tooth enamel, the hardest tissue in our bodies.

It is hoped the work can form the basis of new approaches to dentistry, specifically a biological therapy for replacing damaged or lost tissue.

The results have been made publicly accessible and the researchers believe that they should prove a useful resource.