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Researchers develop new means to treat incipient dental caries

Researchers from the University of Washington have developed a new method to remineralize tooth enamel to treat incipient caries using proteins. (Photograph: TY Lim/Shutterstock)

Thu. 19. April 2018


WASHINGTON, U.S.: Prevention is always the best place to start when talking about dental care; however, many patients would be thrilled to have access to an alternative if their teeth did develop caries and needed restorative work. In new research that might produce one such possibility, scientists from the University of Washington have developed a method that uses proteins to remineralize tooth enamel to treat white spot lesions and incipient caries.

The researchers used peptides derived from amelogenin, the protein crucial to forming the hard crown enamel, that biomineralize as the key active ingredient in the new technology. To evaluate the real-world effect of the peptides, they tested the remineralization ability of the peptides against variations of fluoride alone or combined with peptides, among others, on study participants who had received artificially created lesions on their tooth enamel.

According to the results, participants who received the peptides alone showed a 10 μm thick remineralization layer, an indication, the researchers believe, that the peptides could rebuild and strengthen enamel on a daily basis—when part of a well-rounded preventive dental care routine. Once fully developed, the scientists believe the technology could then be used in both private and public health settings, in biomimetic toothpaste, gels, solutions and composites, as a safe alternative to existing dental procedures and treatments.

Commenting on their new discovery, head researcher Mehmet Sarikaya, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and adjunct professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Oral Health Sciences at the University of Washington, said: “Remineralization guided by peptides is a healthy alternative to current dental health care.”

Despite the past centenary seeing an improvement in global oral health, the researchers pointed to the fact that there are some lower socio-economic groups who still suffer disproportionally from oral disease. They noted that a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the prevalence of dental cavities in Americans indicated that caries is again on the rise—suggesting a regression in the progress of previous years.

The study, titled “Biomimetic tooth repair: Amelogenin-derived peptide enables in vitro remineralization of human enamel,” was published in ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineeringon March 9, 2018.

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