Katie Cottingham

The Medical Bond: Mussels help scientists fight tooth sensitivity

Blog Post created by Katie Cottingham on Mar 4, 2013

A substance in the sticky goo that mussels use to glom on to rocks and other surfaces could help ease tooth sensitivity. That’s welcome news to my ears — well, to my sensitive teeth!

 

Like 74 percent of the world’s population, I too have teeth that are sensitive to extremes in temperatures or to certain kinds of foods and drinks, like those that are sweet or acidic. Teeth hurt when the hard outer enamel layer and the softer underlying dentin wear away — it’s called demineralization. That makes it easier for things to stimulate the nerves that are inside the teeth. <Ouch!>

 

There are some sugar-free gums and special toothpastes on the market that can help reduce that tooth hyper-sensitivity. But none of these products can rebuild both the enamel and dentin simultaneously. And that’s what Quan-Li Li, Chun Hung Chu and colleagues wanted to do. But dentin and enamel break down and rebuild in different ways, complicating the issue.

 

To address this challenge, the researchers turned to a material in the adhesive that mussels use to stick to things. In that goo is a substance called polydopamine, which is already being investigated for use in many biomedical applications, such as drug delivery and biosensing.

 

In the paper, published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, they describe laboratory tests that involved bathing human teeth with worn-away enamel and dentin in liquid containing the sticky material and minerals. Teeth bathed in the sticky material and minerals reformed dentin and enamel. However, teeth bathed just in minerals reformed only enamel.

 

The gooey substance “may be a simple universal technique to induce enamel and dentin remineralization simultaneously,” they concluded.

 

“Polydopamine-Induced Tooth Remineralization,” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces

 

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Credit: Medioimages/Photodisc /Thinkstock

 

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