Dental enamel could be regenerated in the future, preventing sensitive teeth, toothache and even stop molars from dropping out, scientists claim
- British scientists reveal new regenerative technique to restore dental enamel
- Enamel coats the outer part of our teeth and is the hardest tissue in the body
- Unlike other tissues of the body, enamel cannot regenerate once it is lost
- Scientists developed a way to grow mineralised materials, like dental enamel
Dental enamel could be regenerated in the future, preventing sensitive teeth, toothache and even stop molars from dropping out, British scientists have revealed.
Queen Mary University of London have developed a new way to grow mineralised materials which could regenerate hard tissues such as dental enamel and bone.
Enamel coats the outer part of our teeth and is the hardest tissue in the body able to withstand biting forces, exposure to acidic foods and drinks and extreme temperatures.
Yet unlike other tissues of the body, enamel cannot regenerate once it is lost.
Dental enamel could be regenerated, say scientists from the Queen Mary University of London
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Repairs take two stages.
First, a revolutionary material – called a protein matrix – is placed on the outside of the tooth that needs to be repaired.
This layer looks like a transparent contact lens which wraps around the tooth like a bandage.
Then the matrix attracts minerals naturally present in our saliva – calcium and phosphates – to form crystals in the gaps in the grid.
While bumpy under the microscope, these crystals mirror the smooth coating around the tooth.
Once in place, the enamel starts to regrow and bonds with the tooth below.
The material which is created by the process – apatite- is the naturally hard substance which makes up the bulk of enamel.
This can lead to toothache and tooth loss which affects half of the world’s population.
So finding a way to preserve or restore enamel has long been a major need in dentistry.
Shielding your teeth from harm
The dental enamel enables our teeth to function for a large part of our lifetime and this remarkable performance results from its highly organised structure.
The study showed this new approach can create materials with remarkable precision in order that look and behave like dental enamel.
The materials could be used for a wide variety of dental complications such as the prevention and treatment of tooth decay or tooth sensitivity – also known as dentin hypersensitivity.
First author Postdoctoral Research Assistant and dentist Dr Sherif Elsharkawy said: ‘This is exciting because the simplicity and versatility of the mineralisation platform opens up opportunities to treat and regenerate dental tissues.
‘For example, we could develop acid resistant bandages that can infiltrate, mineralise, and shield exposed dentinal tubules of human teeth for the treatment of dentin hypersensitivity.’
The new approach creates materials with remarkable precision to look and behave like enamel
Learning from nature
The mechanism developed was based on a specific protein material that is able to trigger and guide the growth of apatite nanocrystals at multiple scales – similarly to how these crystals grow when dental enamel develops in our body.
This structural organisation is critical for the outstanding physical properties exhibited by natural dental enamel.
Lead author Professor Alvaro Mata said: ‘A major goal in materials science is to learn from nature to develop useful materials based on the precise control of molecular building-blocks.
‘The key discovery has been the possibility to exploit disordered proteins to control and guide the process of mineralisation at multiple scales.
‘Through this, we have developed a technique to easily grow synthetic materials that emulate such hierarchically organised architecture over large areas and with the capacity to tune their properties.’
Enabling control of the mineralisation process opens the possibility to create materials with properties that mimic different hard tissues beyond enamel such as bone and dentin.
As such, the work has the potential to be used in a variety of applications in regenerative medicine.
In addition, the study also provides insights into the role of protein disorder in human physiology and pathology.
The study was published in Nature Communications.
ARE TRENDY WAYS OF CLEANING YOUR TEETH EFFECTIVE, OR DANGEROUS?
Top dentists reveal how trendy fads can wreak havoc with people’s teeth.
Despite the likes of Gisele Bündchen and the Hemsley sisters swearing by starting every morning with a refreshing glass of hot water and lemon, Dr Ben Atkins, a dentist based in Manchester and Trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, warns the drink effectively dissolves teeth and could even make them darker.
While critics link fluoride to everything from dementia to diabetes, experts argue numerous studies show the mineral does not harm people’s health, with free-from varieties missing out on ‘the main protective ingredient’.
Dr Atkins also describes the ancient Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling, which involves swishing coconut oil around the mouth, as a ‘waste of time’, with Dr Rhona Eskander, Best Young Dentist Winner 2016, adding it will not give you a Hollywood smile.
In terms of brushing your teeth with charcoal or apple cider vinegar, both Dr Atkins and Dr Eskander add the ‘natural remedies’ could do more harm than good as while their acidic, abrasive consistencies may remove surface stains, they could also permanently damage enamel.
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