Can You Grow Tooth Enamel?
Sep 07 2019 Read 349 Times
In a breakthrough that could revolutionise dental science, a team of researchers from Zhejiang University in China has discovered a way to artificially grow tooth enamel. Using clusters of calcium phosphate that resemble enamel, the team were able to recreate the complex structure which protects teeth against decay.
The method is cost effective and easy to replicate on a large scale, which could see it emerge as an exciting new dentistry technique. The findings were published in the journal Science Advances and could have a widespread impact on the 2.4 billion people around the world who currently suffer from dental cavities in permanent teeth.
“After intensive discussion with dentists, we believe that this new method can be widely used in future,” says Dr Zhaoming Liu, co-author of the study.
Replicating the natural durability of enamel
Currently, hard materials such as metal alloys, amalgam, ceramics and resin are used to repair damaged tooth enamel. They're effective but don't replicate the natural durability of enamel and will often become loose or crack after five years. This can cause pain for dental patients and can also become expensive.
The researchers aim to solve this problem by creating enamel from tiny clusters of calcium phosphate measuring just 1.5 nanometres in diameter. As the main component of enamel, calcium phosphate was used by the team to 'grow' the mineralised material. They did this by mixing the clusters into an alcoholic solution containing an organic compound called trimethylamine. The mixture was then attached to human teeth coated in a thin layer of acid. Within 48 hours, the clusters started to develop a thin crystalline layer that resembled the complex structure of natural enamel.
"Our newly regenerated enamel has the same structure and similar mechanical properties as native enamel,” says Liu.
Human trials on the horizon
The replicated material offers the same strength and wear-resistance as natural enamel, with experts predicting the technique could eventually be used to fill cavities and refurbish teeth. The team hope to commence human trails in the next two years.
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