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A recent study which was conducted by researchers from Zheijiang University in China, has found a way to repair damaged tooth enamel. The researchers’ novel method allows them to reproduce the complex structure of enamel: by ‘growing’ tooth enamel through the production of clusters of enamel-like calcium phosphate. The team has said the materials are both cheap and can be prepared on a large scale, suggesting that ‘this new method can widely be used in [the] future’.

Currently, tooth decay is deemed to be an extremely common issue across the globe: about 2.4 billion people live with cavities in permanent teeth and roughly 484 million children have decay in their milk teeth. Until now, methods employed to repair damaged tooth enamel have included using materials such as resin, metal alloys, amalgam and ceramics. Yet such methods are perceived as not ideal; for example, ‘the resin-based material still cannot adhere well on enamel, and they [the teeth repaired via this method] will get loose after around five years’, says Dr. Zhaoming Liu, co-author of the study.

The newly discovered approach involves producing tiny clusters of calcium phosphate, which is the main component of enamel, with a diameter of a mere 1.5 nanometres – far smaller than previously employed methods. This is made possible by preparing the clusters in the presence of triethylamine, a substance which prevents the clusters from clumping. The scientists then applied these clusters to damaged human teeth, concluding that the repaired enamel ‘had a similar strength and wear-resistance to natural, undamaged enamel’. Although it may take several more years before this method can be used throughout dental practices, these findings are deemed as innovative, given that enamel is unable to self-repair.

Applicants for Chemistry can consider how findings from research such as this can be employed throughout other scientific spheres including in dentistry, helping pave the way for ameliorated solutions to health-related issues.

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