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Mussels adhesive could be used in sensitive teeth treatment

By Damir Beciri
8 January 2013

dental-care-robaidWhile some of us can be considered lucky since we don’t have sensitive teeth, about 3 out of every 4 people have teeth with a form of sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks. Inspired by the adhesive that mussels use to attach to rocks and other surfaces in water, a group of researchers from the University of Hong Kong and Anhui Medical University, China, have developed a way to prevent tooth sensitivity that affects millions of people around the world.

One or more teeth can become sensitive to even slight pressure if it has been traumatized or worked on at the dentist’s office. People can cause tooth sensitivity if they have a habit to grind their teeth or clamp their jaws tightly shut, but this type of sensitivity usually goes away in a day or two. The most common cause of tooth sensitivity to temperature and sweet or sour foods is exposed dentin – the hardened tissue just beneath the tooth’s enamel that contains microscopic nerve fibers. Enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies, and it can withstand decades of biting, chewing and crunching.

As tough as tooth enamel is, it’s not indestructible – acids from foods and bacteria can damage it and cause erosion and cavities, and it can be chipped or cracked – and unlike bones, enamel can’t grow back on its own. Dentin can become exposed as a result of dental decay, food or toothbrush abrasion, or gum recession. Regardless of the cause, exposed nerves make the teeth sensitive.

Although some sugar-free gums and special toothpastes can help reduce that tooth hyper-sensitivity, the researchers focused onto development of a substance which can rebuild both enamel and dentin at the same time. To meet that challenge, they turned to a sticky material similar to the adhesive that mussels use to adhere to surfaces. They envisioned that it could be used to keep minerals in contact with dentin long enough for the rebuilding process to occur.

The researchers coated dopamine on demineralized enamel and dentin surfaces to test the effect of polydopamine (mussel adhesive) coating on dental remineralization. Dental slices containing enamel and dentin were first etched with 37% phosphoric acid for 2min, and immersed in a 2mg/mL freshly prepared solution of dopamine for approximately 24h at room temperature in the dark to obtain polydopamine coating.

The results of various tests revealed that no significant difference was noted in the remineralization of enamel whether it was coated with polydopamine or not, however, a significant difference was found in dentin remineralization between dentin with and without polydopamine coating. Teeth coated with the sticky material and minerals reformed both dentin and enamel. Once perfected, a similar approach might be used for dentin remineralization and more durable teeth.

For more information, read the paper published in the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces: “Polydopamine-Induced Tooth Remineralization”.

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