Millions of people around the world suffer from sensitive teeth. Though not necessarily a major health issue, experiencing pain when eating or drinking hot, cold, sweet or sour foods reduces the enjoyment of eating your favorite foods and makes for awkward social situations. But a shellfish-inspired goo may soon be available to ease the situation.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when the hard outer enamel layer on teeth and the underlying dentin wear away, allowing the nerves inside to be overstimulated. Many dental products, such as special toothpastes and chewing gums, can help alleviate the hypersensitivity but do nothing to repair the damage.
Researchers in China, however, have taken a cue from Mother Nature in seeking a more permanent solution to the problem. Citing the need for substances that rebuild both enamel and dentin at the same time, they have turned to investigating a sticky substance similar to the adhesive that mussels use to adhere to underwater rocks and other surfaces. This compound could keep much-needed minerals directly on the teeth and in contact with dentin long enough that the rebuilding of both dentin and enamel could occur.
In laboratory tests, human teeth badly worn of enamel and dentin were bathed in the sticky material with minerals. These teeth were able to reform both dentin and enamel. Conversely, teeth bathed in minerals alone reformed only enamel.
In the full report in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, the researchers conclude that the gooey substance “may be a simple universal technique to induce enamel and dentin remineralization simultaneously.”