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Should We Replace Those Old Fillings?

Should we get our mercury-amalgam fillings replaced--or would it be easier just to grow new teeth?

A common test used to determine mercury exposure from dental amalgam fillings may significantly overestimate the amount of the toxic metal released from fillings. While scientists agree that dental amalgam fillings slowly release mercury vapor into the mouth, both the amount of mercury released and the question of whether this exposure presents a significant health risk remain controversial.

Chemist Joel D. Blum says, "In populations that eat fish but lack occupational exposure to mercury vapor, mercury concentrations in urine may overestimate exposure to mercury vapor from dental amalgams. This is an important consideration for studies seeking to determine the health risks of mercury vapor inhalation from dental amalgams."

Meanwhile, False teeth--or "choppers"--may be a thing of the past, even if you're not flossing they way you should. Scientists have made teeth from stem cells so that you can regrow your own. It's teething time all over again, but worth it.

The technique could also be adapted to other organs, allowing hearts, lungs and kidneys to be grown inside the body to replace parts worn by age or damaged by disease. Will we eventually become immortal? (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show).

So far, it's been tried on mice: The cells were grown in the laboratory for 5 days until they formed a tiny tooth "bud," which was then transplanted deep into the jawbone of a mouse that had had a tooth removed. Five weeks later, the tip of the tooth broke through the gum, and after seven weeks, it was fully grown.

What's next--teething biscuits for adults?

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