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Tooth Regeneration May Replace Drill-and-Fill Print

The next time your children get cavities, they might get tooth regeneration instead of fillings.

 

That's because materials scientists are beginning to find just the right solutions of chemicals to rebuild decayed teeth, rather than merely patching their holes. Enamel and dentin, the materials that make teeth the strongest pieces of the body, would replace the gold or ceramic fillings that currently return teeth to working order.

 

"What we're hoping to have happen is to catch [decaying teeth] early and remineralize them," said Sally Marshall, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco. Marshall gave a talk last week at the spring meeting of the Materials Research Society on rebuilding the inner portions of teeth.

 

While regrowing your uncle's toothless grin from scratch is still a decade away, the ability to use some of the body's own building materials for oral repair would be a boon to dentists, who have been fixing cavities with metal fillings since the 1840s. Enamel and dentin are remarkably strong and long-lasting, and they can repair themselves. But as scientists are continuing to find out, dentin in particular is a remarkably complex structure.

 

The outer covering of teeth is enamel. The body makes it by growing tiny mineral crystals in a highly regular crystal lattice. Underneath that ceramic-like covering, dentin is like hard clay reinforced by fibers of collagen, similar to the way adobe bricks contain clay reinforced by straw fibers.

 

sk/2008-04-24 10:13:14

 
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