New technique helps researchers understand how acid damages teeth

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how acid damages teeth
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A collaboration of researchers from two universities in England have developed a new technique to improve understanding of how acid damages teeth at the microstructural level.

The researchers from the University of Surrey and the School of Dentistry at the University of Birmingham performed a technique called ‘in situ synchrotron X-ray microtomography’ at Diamond Light Source, a special particle accelerator facility with which the University of Surrey has a strong working partnership. 

There, electrons were accelerated to near light speed to generate bright X-rays that were used to scan dentine samples while they were being treated with acid. This enabled the team to build clear 3D images of dentine’s internal structure with sub-micrometre resolution (a micrometre being one-thousandth of a millimetre). 

By analysing these images over the six hours of the experiment, the researchers conducted the first-ever time-resolved 3D study (often referred to as 4D studies) of the dentine microstructural changes caused by acid.

The study, published in Dental Materials, highlights that acid dissolves the minerals in different structures of dentine at different rates. 

Dentine forms the main bulk of human teeth and supports the enamel, which covers the crown surface, helping to make teeth strong and resilient, but acids from dental plaque can cause tooth decay which affects the integrity of the dental structure. This research aims to develop knowledge that leads to new treatments that can restore the structure and function of dentine.

“Relatively little is known about how exactly acid damages the dentine inside our teeth at a microstructural level,” Dr Tan Sui, lead researcher at the University of Surrey, said.

“This new research technique changes that and opens the possibility of helping identify new ways to protect dental tissues and develop new treatments.”

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