Nature’s crystal coating, the quest to repair enamel

Scientists in China have developed a gel containing mineral clusters found naturally in teeth. The gel encourages the growth of crystals in partially acid-damaged tooth enamel to restore it to its original shape.

The method has yet to be tested in humans, but one day, it could mean an end to painful needles and the dreaded drill.

Read more: How often should I get my teeth cleaned?

What is tooth enamel?

The enamel is the topmost layer on our teeth. It protects them from damage. The enamel also protects us against pain and sensitivity.

If this protective coating erodes, our teeth become more vulnerable to cavities (holes) and may need dental treatments, such as fillings.

The enamel is the outermost layer of our teeth.

Tooth enamel is composed of the same minerals as bone, calcium, and phosphate. Enamel contains more minerals than bone, but the crystals of enamel are arranged into a complex geometrical arrangement.

The enamel crystals look like spaghetti strands or long ribbons under a microscope. The crystal strands can be arranged into clusters oriented at 60 degrees, similar to packets of dried spaghetti. Rods and inter-rods are the ribbon clusters that weave together like a honeycomb.

This weave is hard to recreate when destroyed because it is impossible to replace the enamel cells as they die at the time our teeth emerge out of our gums.

Why does tooth enamel erode over time?

Enamel is extremely hard, but it can also be brittle. It’s susceptible to erosion. It happens when the mineral in our teeth dissolves into saliva.

When we get acid in our mouth (a bad guy), the mineral in our saliva (a good guy) tries to bind with it and neutralize the acid. The mineral in our saliva (as a good guy) tries to bind with the acid (a bad guy). This balances the acid and prevents it from harming us. This is called buffering.

We run out of minerals to buffer an “acid attack” if there is too much acid or the quantity and quality of our saliva are inadequate. In a last effort to neutralize acidity, the minerals in our teeth dissolve into foam. The teeth will erode at this point and become more vulnerable.

Read more: Child tooth decay is on the rise, but few are brushing their teeth enough or seeing the dentist.

Like the erosion we see in our beaches and river beds, under a microscope, eroded enamel surfaces appear moth-eaten and uneven. This is because erosion destroys the crystal organization I described above.

Dentists recommend products that repair enamel, but they cannot recreate the complex crystal structure needed to create a pearly-white shimmer. The dental community is very excited by this research.

Can we control erosion?

When we consume and drink acidic foods, such as wine, cola drinks, fruit juices, sodas, lollies, and energy or sports drinks, our teeth will erode. Acid is found in anything that tastes sour. Avoid or limit the consumption of acidic foods and beverages whenever possible.

Patients with medical conditions like bulimia and acid resin are at a higher risk of having their teeth worn down. It’s important to get regular dental checks if you have these conditions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *