New discoveries at the University of Southern California (USC) in the US promises to lessen or even eliminate pain associated with tooth decay. Enamel, which protects the crown and makes up the normally visible part of the teeth, is the hardest substance in the human body and is a non-living tissue that cannot be rejuvenated. Weakening of the enamel can lead to tooth decay, one of the most prevalent chronic diseases.
Now researchers at USC say they have found the enzyme (MMP-20) in teeth that helps facilitate enamel crystal formation. MMP-20 slices up amelogenin proteins during the crystallization of enamel and, together with other enzymes, assist cells in adding more minerals needed to form enamel.
The discovery of MMP-20 coupled with another study at USC concluded that an amelogenin-chitosan hydrogel could repair early tooth decay by growing an enamel-like layer that reduces lesions by up to 70 percent.
Products such as fluoride and calcium-phosphate added toothpastes and mouthwashes also promote re-mineralization of initial enamel lesions; however, they need to be used regularly and only help to plug the problem so people do not feel the pain. The new gel on the other hand serves to fill the cracks and holes with a permanent enamel-like substance.
Over 90 percent of adults aged 20 to 64 in the US have had dental decay in their permanent teeth. Grinding teeth at night, gum recession and the disappearance of enamel over a lifetime due to demineralizing acidic food and drink are all common problems that people everywhere face.
The researchers pointed out that new gel has unique antimicrobial and adhesion properties that are important for dental application, including eliminating the threat of secondary cavities and being more effective than traditional crowns, the adhesion of which tend to weaken over time.