Chinese scientists have uncovered a way to essentially regrow human tooth enamel. Researchers from China’s Zhejiang University and Xiamen University developed a gel that makes tooth enamel repair itself. Dr. Zhaoming Liu, a co-author of the study, said, “Our newly regenerated enamel has the same structure and similar mechanical properties as native enamel.” The study’s findings have been published in the journal Science Advances.
Tooth enamel is one of the toughest tissues in our bodies. The mineralized substance protects the surface of teeth against decay. A plaque build-up in our mouths from too much sugar and poor dental hygiene can release acid that can destroy the tough enamel. When tooth enamel is lost or damaged, it doesn’t grow back.
Scientists have not been able to reproduce enamel because of its complex cellular structure. The current repair for deteriorated enamel is for a dentist to fill in the damaged areas with resins and ceramics, but these solutions are rarely permanent. Now, thanks to this latest breakthrough, dental fillings may soon be a thing of the past.
The researchers in this latest study created the gel using tiny clusters of calcium and phosphate, the key components of natural tooth enamel. These components were mixed into an alcoholic solution with the organic compound trimethylamine and then layered on crystalline hydroxyapatite, a substance similar to the enamel in human teeth. They found that the calcium phosphate clusters in the gel fused onto the material.
The researchers then tested out their gel on extracted human teeth that had been damaged with acid. The teeth were placed in conditions that replicated those found inside the human mouth for 48 hours. Over that time, the gel helped to create a new layer of enamel about 3 micrometers thick that was just as strong and hardy as the enamel found naturally in teeth. The researchers noted that while the layer was very thin, the gel could be applied repeatedly to build it up.