Tooth enamel, the hardest substance in the body coating the outer part of the teeth, can’t repair itself when damage.
However, a group of British researchers from Queen Mary University of London say they have developed a new way to grow mineralized materials that look and behave like tooth enamel.
According to the study, published in the June issue of Nature Communications, scientists said the finding could be used in a variety of hard tissue repair in medicine, including the treatment of tooth decay or tooth sensitivity.
“A major goal in materials science is to learn from nature to develop useful materials based on the precise control of molecular building-blocks,” said lead author Alvaro Mata, D.Eng., from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, in a news release.
Because it contains no living cells, tooth enamel cannot repair damage from decay or from wear, according to MouthHealthy.org, the ADA’s consumer website.
Tooth erosion, often caused by acidic foods and beverages, is permanent. If the enamel has started to wear away, a person may fell pain or sensitivity when consuming hot, cold or sweet drinks; notice a yellowish discoloration of the teeth; find that fillings have changed; face greater risks for more cavities over time; and, in extreme cases, develop an abscess and experience tooth loss.
According to the study, the researches developed the enamel-like material based on a specific protein material that can regenerate and grow over large uneven surfaces — similar to how dental enamel develops in the body.
“This is exciting because the simplicity and versatility of the mineralization platform opens up opportunities to treat and regenerate dental tissues,” said Dr. Sherif Elsharkawy, first author of the study, in a news release. “For example, we could develop acid resistant bandages that can infiltrate, mineralize and shield dentinal tubules of human teeth for the treatment of [tooth sensitivity].”
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