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No More Tooth Decay? Chinese Scientists Develop Gel for ‘Permanent’ Repair of Enamel

According to a 2016 study, about 2.4 billion people worldwide were living with caries in permanent teeth, while 486 million children with decaying milk teeth.

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Updated:September 3, 2019, 2:23 PM IST
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No More Tooth Decay? Chinese Scientists Develop Gel for ‘Permanent’ Repair of Enamel
Image for representational purpose (Reuters)
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A team of Chinese researchers may have rendered dental fillings obsolete by developing a gel that permanently repairs damaged tooth enamel.

Although enamel is the hardest tissue in the body, the mineralized substance that protects the surface of teeth is also highly susceptible to erosion and abrasion due to exposure to acidic foods and drinks.

According to a 2016 study published in The Lancet Journal, about 2.4 billion people worldwide were living with caries in permanent teeth, while 486 million children with decaying milk teeth.

Scientists have long grappled with coming up an alternative method of treatment to the current use of materials such as resin, metal alloys, amalgam and ceramics as “fillings” to repair damaged tooth enamel.

The answer, researchers from Zhejiang University School of Medicine say, lies in a liquid solution they created by mixing calcium and phosphate ions into an alcoholic solution with the organic compound trimethylamine.

Once applied to damaged tooth samples, the researchers found that gel had helped create a new layer of enamel about 3 micrometers thick, just over the course of 48 hours.

“Our newly regenerated enamel has the same structure and similar mechanical properties as native enamel,” said Dr Zhaoming Liu, a co-author of the study which was published in the journal Science Advances this week.

“We hope to realize tooth enamel regrowth without using fillings which contain totally different materials and we hope, if all goes smoothly, to start trials in people within one to two years.”

The gel’s repair of tooth enamel “would be permanent”, according to the researchers, led by Professor Tang Ruikang at the university’s chemistry department.

Dr Sherif Elsharkawy, an expert in prosthodontics at King’s College London, told The Guardian UK he found the research very exciting.

“The method is simple, but it needs to be validated clinically,” he said.

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