In the past decade, medical advances have gotten more and more sci-fi. Just four years ago, a Californian biotech firm named Organovo, pushed the limits of 3D-printing technology by announcing its intention to begin selling printed liver tissue which could be introduced inside of a human patient, promoting cell regeneration — just like Star Trek! In the dental science field, advancements have also kept pace. From the first automated dental implants surgery performed by a robot, to a study which may sometime help patients regrow their own teeth, it’s an exciting time for both dentists and their patients.

Although not as exciting as regrowing human teeth, another equally important study has just been released that may help patients regenerate their dental enamel instead of placing dental fillings.

Young woman standing outside with a smile on her face

Why Is Enamel Important?

Comprising the outer layer of our teeth, dental enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body. Made up mostly of minerals, primarily hydroxyapatite, enamel plays the most important role in protecting your teeth from decay. Although it’s incredibly resistant, enamel’s weakness is acidity. Most patients are aware that consuming sugar can contribute to tooth decay, but the mechanism behind this is actually tiny bacteria, already present inside your mouth, which feed on sugar, attach to enamel, and produce an acidic byproduct that slowly erodes enamel. Hard foods that can chip teeth, can also fracture parts of enamel. Unfortunately, when enamel has become eroded, it’s gone. Unlike bone or tissue, enamel contains no living cells capable of regenerating it, which is why this latest study, coming from Queen Mary University in London, is so exciting.

New Material Could Regenerate Enamel

Published in the journal, Nature Communications, Dr. Elsharkawy and her team created a new approach to create materials that will behave like natural enamel. According to Dr. Elsharkawy, this new method will bring a versatile new treatment for teeth decay, and tooth sensitivity. The mechanism used to develop this material is based on a specific protein that can trigger the growth of apatite nanocrystals, similar to how dental enamel develops in our body. The key discovery in this study is possibility to exploit proteins to control the process of mineralization on multiple scales, which could be used in many applications in regenerative medicine.

For Now, Prevention is Key!

Unfortunately for most, this method is a long way away from being commercially available. If you’re hoping to prevent tooth decay — and gum disease — in the future, prevention is key. The most effective way to prevent tooth decay is simply keeping up with a strict oral health regiment. The Dental Association of America suggests that the best way to keep your mouth healthy is to brush twice a day and floss once a day. This will eliminate the food source of damaging bacteria, and will also help to regulate the microbiome of your mouth.

Another key part of oral health is regular check-ups with your dentist to catch and treat problems before they become worse. If you haven’t seen a dentist in more than six months, it’s time to schedule your appointment!

You should see a dentist every six months for regular cleanings. If you are due—or overdue—for a dental cleaning in Rockland County, please call (845) 627-7645 or email B & D Dental Excellence in West Nyack today.