Rebuilding lost tooth enamel is an important goal in a world in which robust control over the bacteria responsible for producing cavities has not yet been achieved. In a welcome advance in this part of the field, researchers will soon conduct trials of a low cost approach to achieve reconstruction of enamel, slowly over time.
Researchers are preparing to launch clinical trials of a lozenge that contains an engineered peptide, or chain of amino acids, along with phosphorus and calcium ions, which are building blocks of tooth enamel. The peptide is derived from amelogenin, the key protein in the formation of tooth enamel, the tooth's crown. It is also key to the formation of cementum, which makes up the surface of the tooth root.
Each lozenge deposits several micrometers of new enamel on the teeth via the peptide, which is engineered to bind to the damaged enamel to repair it while not affecting the mouth's soft tissue. The new layer also integrates with dentin, the living tissue underneath the tooth's surface. Two lozenges a day can rebuild enamel, while one a day can maintain a healthy layer.
The lozenge produces new enamel that is whiter than what tooth-whitening strips or gels produce. It has another distinct advantage: Conventional whitening treatments rely on hydrogen peroxide, a bleaching agent that can weaken tooth enamel after prolonged use. Since tooth enamel can't regrow spontaneously, the underlying dentin can be exposed, with results ranging from hypersensitivity to cavities or even gum disease. The lozenge, on the other hand, strengthens, rebuilds, and protects teeth.
In addition, the researchers are investigating a gel or solution with the engineered peptide to treat hypersensitive teeth. This problem results from weakness in the enamel that makes the underlying dentin and nerves more vulnerable to heat or cold. Most common products currently on the market can put a layer of organic material on the tooth and numb nerve endings with potassium nitrate, but the relief is only temporary. The peptide, however, addresses the problem permanently at its source by strengthening the enamel.