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Scientists bring nanotechnology to bear on tooth sensitivity

Do you have sensitive teeth?

Scientists from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom are studying a new application of nanotechnology — the use of machines and technology built at the molecular or atomic levels — that may eventually help sensitive teeth sufferers.

Tooth sensitivity occurs when the dentin (a layer of tissue beneath the tooth's bony exterior) loses its protective covering, exposing tiny canals in the tissue. Heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods can then stimulate the nerves and cells inside the tooth, causing pain.

Conventional treatments include desensitizing toothpastes, which help block pain sensations from traveling from the tooth surface to the nerve, and fluoride treatments to encourage remineralization of the dentin.

However, the Leeds scientists are investigating "nanospheres" made of hydroxyapatite, a ceramic material used in dental coatings, to fill the dentin canals, thereby eliminating sensitivity. By growing the mineral under varying pH levels, the team is experimenting with different sizes of the molecule-sized spheres in order to determine the best fit for filling the tiny channels in the teeth.

Based on earlier experimentation with a commercially available type of silica nanosphere, they concluded that "these tiny spheres are really good at filling the channels in the teeth, packing inside them quite evenly and going down in the holes to a good depth."

The next stage of their research involves determining how to commercially synthesize the hydroxyapatite nanospheres.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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