The human body is comprised of many elements that perform certain body function. One of those elements is the teeth which we use for proper food chewing. In a life span of a person there are two sets of teeth: baby teeth and the permanent “adult” teeth.
The teeth are in fact bones and represent the hardest bones in the body. However, they can get damaged as a result of the acids present in the food and drinks thus leading to tooth decay. The tooth enamel is the protection layer of the teeth which can get harmed triggering tooth decay. The cells that produce enamel die instantly which makes the tooth enamel vulnerable as a result of which it starts to erode, break, or chip. Once damaged it cannot regenerate by itself again.
Fortunately, there is a new breakthrough in terms of dental medicine and that comes from the Chinese scientists who have created a liquid solution that can grow back the tough external surface of damaged tooth enamel. The researchers from Zhejiang University School of Medicine in China have used a material that mimics the natural mineralization process of the protective outer layer of the teeth thereby restoring healthy tooth enamel.
This gel acts by replicating the biomineralization process by stimulating cells known as ameloblasts to release proteins that eventually become enamel. These cells are only present during tooth development, and once the permanent teeth develop there is no natural ability to self-repair.
The Chinese researchers combined calcium and phosphate ions, the two minerals present in enamel, and developed an alcoholic solution with the organic compound known as trimethylamine. They have used a new kind of calcium phosphate ion clusters (CPICs), measuring just 1.5 nanometers in diameter which were stabilized in an ethanol solution containing a chemical named as triethylamine that prevents their clumping.
In the experiment by the scientists, which involved the use of gel-like material to donated human teeth in a simulated mouth-like environment, the results were positive. In 48 hours, the ultra-small clusters have efficiently fused to the fish-scale-like structure of native enamel developing hard repair layer with a thickness of up to 2.8 micrometers. The gel material is comprised of calcium phosphate ion clusters that produce a precursor layer that will stimulate the epitaxial crystal growth of enamel apatite thus reproducing the natural biomineralization crystalline-amorphous frontier of hard tissue.
The tooth enamel is well recognized for its complex and crystalline and because of that the previous attempts were not successful. Previously the use of dentist-recommended products for the repair enamel were not able to stimulate the regrowth of the complex crystal structure, but with this new product the pearly white shimmer will be easily recreated.
As per the co-author of the study, a biomimetics and material scientist Zhaoming Liu, the newly developed regenerated enamel shows the same structure and similar mechanical properties as the natural one.
The team of researchers wants to go further in their study and test this unique method on mice, and afterwards on people. They believe that very soon they can perfect the use of this method and thus successfully replace the use of fillings. The implementation of this new technique in the future will repair decayed teeth and prevent tooth decay for good.
However, there is still the need of further testing and experts believe that it may take several years before this gel is commonly used in dentist’s office. However, this does not mean that we should neglect our teeth. Chen Haifeng, an associate professor at Peking University’s biomedical engineering department, strongly recommends good dental care till the testing of the new material are proven safe for use.
He maintains that prevention stays the best remedy as always and that we should not wait for our teeth to start to decay. He adds: “Our teeth are a miracle of nature. Artificial replacement will never do the job as well.”
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