Mussel ‘glue’ could stop sensitivity in teeth

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 10:52am

The humble mussel could be responsible for putting smiles back on the faces of those with sensitive teeth.

Inspired by the way the molluscs attach themselves to wet surfaces, dental researchers have come up with a "glue" to stick minerals back on eroded teeth. The technique could be a potential treatment for sensitive teeth by sealing up exposed dentine tubules that lead to the nerves.

Up to three-quarters of those who suffer from sensitive teeth have exposed dentine tubules.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong and the Anhui Medical University coated acid-eroded human teeth with a chemical similar to the protein-based glue that mussels produce to attach themselves to wet, solid surfaces. They then immersed the teeth in a mineral solution and found the "glue" helped in forming mineral crystals on their surface and inner dentine layer.

"In the future, we may develop products with the chemical to be applied on sensitive teeth, or dentists might use it as a treatment," said Dr Cao Ying, a PhD dentistry student at the University of Hong Kong who took part in the study.

The minerals could be supplied from the user's own saliva or via a mouthwash, she said.

In the study, compared with eroded teeth samples that were not coated with the "glue" made of polydopamine, the coated samples re-mineralised more effectively after both were immersed in a calcium-and-phosphate solution for a week.

The researchers concluded that polydopamine, an organic chemical that mimics how mussels make their powerful adhesive, alters the tooth surface to stimulate mineral formation on the inner dentine layer.

Teeth samples without the coating only had re-mineralisation on the surface layer but not in the dentine.