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New material to regenerate dental enamel
June 19, 2018, 1:08 pm
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Researchers at the University of London have developed an innovative method to grow mineralized materials that could regenerate hard tissues such as dental enamel and bone.

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 organized 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 percent of the world's population and so finding ways to recreate enamel has long been a major need in dentistry.

The study shows that this new approach can create materials with remarkable precision and order that look and behave like dental enamel. The materials could be used for a wide variety of dental complications such as the prevention and treatment of tooth decay or tooth sensitivity.

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 organization is critical for the outstanding physical properties exhibited by natural dental enamel.

Enabling control of the mineralization process opens the possibility to create materials with properties that mimic different hard tissues beyond enamel such as bone and dentin. As such, the work has the potential to be used in a variety of applications in regenerative medicine. In addition, the study also provides insights into the role of protein disorder in human physiology and pathology.

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