Researchers in China have made a breakthrough that could spell the end for tooth fillings. They found a new way to permanently repair the enamel of damaged human teeth.

New Way To Repair Tooth Enamel

Study researcher Changyu Shao, from Zhejiang University in China, and colleagues tried to repair tooth enamel by first creating extremely tiny clusters of calcium phosphate, the main ingredient found in natural enamel.

Shao's team then used the chemical compound triethylamine to prevent the clusters from clumping together. The clusters were then mixed with a gel and applied to a sample of the crystalline hydroxyapatite, a material very similar to the human tooth enamel.

The researchers were able to fuse the clusters with the tooth stand-in, creating a layer that covered the sample of crystalline hydroxyapatite. They said the layer was arranged tight enough to allow the new material to fuse with the old as a single layer, instead of producing multiple crystalline areas.

In tests using real human teeth that had been treated with acid to remove the enamel, the researchers found that within just 48 hours of applications, crystalline layers measuring about 2.7 micrometers have formed on the teeth.

Closer examination revealed the layer had fish-scale like structure similar to that of natural enamel. Physical testing also showed that the lab made enamel was nearly identical to natural enamel in strength and wear resistance.

The End Of Tooth Fillings?

Once the hard enamel of the tooth is lost, it never grows back and currently available treatments involve removing the rotten tooth material and filling the cavity using hard replacement materials. Researchers said the experimental treatment is far better in that it achieves permanent repair.

"HAP layer newly regrown by epitaxial remineralization can be integrated into native enamel such that the repair would be permanent, and this process may be developed as an effective cure for enamel erosion in clinical practice," the researchers wrote in their study, published in the journal Science Advances on Aug. 30

The process may change the way dentists treat rotten or damaged teeth, but this may not happen soon. The researchers said that more work is still needed before the technique can be used by dentists to ensure that it does not have undesirable side effects.

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