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Silica particles could help repair damage to teeth

Researchers have been searching for a method to deliver compounds to teeth the fix painful sensitivity.

By Stephen Feller
Tiny porous holes that develop in the enamel of teeth go from the surface to the nerve, causing painful sensitivity to things like beverage temperature. Photo by Tetiana Iatsenko/Shutterstock
Tiny porous holes that develop in the enamel of teeth go from the surface to the nerve, causing painful sensitivity to things like beverage temperature. Photo by Tetiana Iatsenko/Shutterstock

BIRMINGHAM, England, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Researchers have developed sub-micron silica particles that can be used to deliver compounds to restore damage to teeth and protect them from future damage.

The ultimate aim of the research is to decrease the pain associated with sensitive teeth, and to promote growth of enamel and dentine in teeth to make them stronger. The particles can, however, be used for nearly any compound that dentists wish to deliver into teeth as part of treatment.

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"The dentine of our teeth have numerous microscopic holes, which are the entrances to tubules that run through to the nerve," said Damien Walmsley, a professor at the school of dentistry at the University of Birmingham, in a press release. "When your outer enamel is breached, the exposure of these tubules is really noticeable. If you drink something cold, you can feel the sensitivity in your teeth because these tubules run directly through to the nerve and the soft tissue of the tooth."

Previous attempts to find a substance that would allow for tooth enamel and dentine to be repaired has included calcium fluoride, combinations of carbonate-hydroxypatite nanocrystals and bioactive glass, but they were unable to enter teeth through the tubule openings.

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The researchers found, however, that silica particles treated with a surface coating could successfully penetrate teeth in lab experiments. The expectation is for compounds to enter teeth and increase the mineral component of enamel and dentine, so particles could act like seeds that promote growth in teeth to close the tiny holes.

"These silica particles are available in a range of sizes, from nanometer to sub-micron, without altering their porous nature," said Zoe Pikramenou, a professor of chemistry at the University of Birmingham. "It is this that makes them an ideal container for calcium based compounds to restore the teeth, and antibacterial compounds to protect them. All we needed to do was find the right way of coating them to get them to their target."

The study is published in the Journal of Dentistry.

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