A new way to grow mineralised materials which could regenerate hard tissues such as dental enamel and bone has been developed by a team in the UK.
Enamel, located on the outer part of our teeth, is the hardest tissue in the body and enables our teeth to function for a large part of our lifetime despite biting forces, exposure to acidic foods and drinks and extreme temperatures. This remarkable performance results from its highly organised structure.
However, unlike other tissues of the body, enamel cannot regenerate once it is lost, which can lead to pain and tooth loss. These problems affect more than 50 per cent of the world’s population and so finding ways to recreate enamel has long been a major need in dentistry.
The study by researchers at Queen Mary University of London—and published this month in Nature Communications—shows that this new approach can create materials with remarkable precision and order that look and behave like dental enamel.
The mechanism that has been developed is based on a specific protein material that is able to trigger and guide the growth of apatite nanocrystals at multiple scales— similar 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.
“This is exciting because the simplicity and versatility of the mineralisation platform opens up opportunities to treat and regenerate dental tissues,” the study’s first author Dr Sherif Elsharkawy said.
“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.”