How To Grow Tooth Enamel

Scientists say they have finally cracked the problem of repairing tooth enamel.

Though enamel is the hardest tissue in the body, it cannot self-repair. Now scientists have discovered a method by which its complex structure can be reproduced and the enamel essentially “grown” back.

The team behind the research say the materials are cheap and can be prepared on a large scale. “After intensive discussion with dentists, we believe that this new method can be widely used in future,” said Dr Zhaoming Liu, co-author of the research from Zhejiang University in China.

Tooth decay is extremely common: according to 2016 figures about 2.4 billion people worldwide live with caries in permanent teeth, while 486 million children have decay in their milk teeth. At present, materials such as resin, metal alloys, amalgam and ceramics are used to repair damaged tooth enamel but they are not ideal.

Electron microscope images of human tooth enamel that has been repaired for six, 12 and 48 hours. The blue area is the native enamel; the green is the repaired enamel

“The resin-based material still cannot adhere well on enamel, and they will get loose after around five years,” said Liu.

While scientists have been chipping away at the issue for years through a number of approaches, they have encountered problems – not least that it is difficult to reproduce the complex structure of natural tooth enamel.

The researchers behind the latest study, published in the journal Science Advances, say they got around this problem by developing a way to produce tiny clusters of calcium phosphate – the main component of enamel – with a diameter of just 1.5 nanometres – far smaller than those previously employed.


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