Human teeth have three basic components: dentin, which makes up the majority of a tooth’s composition; calcium, phosphorus and mineral salts, compacted to produce hard material; and enamel, the hard, shiny external layer.
Composition of Dentin, Enamel
Dentin is both harder and denser than human bone. Normally pale yellow in color, it can also color into a grey or black hue. Dentin is the layer of the tooth that is targeted by teeth whitening agents, and has itself three separate layers.
Enamel for its part is made of crystalline calcium phosphate. It is this layer of the tooth that is specifically regenerated by fluoride, either in water, toothpaste or via direct administration. Conversely, the acid content of many of today’s foods and beverages, especially soft drinks, can wear down the enamel on human teeth.
Numerous advances have been made in recent decades with regards to the treatment and replacement of teeth. For example, artificially implanted teeth made of porcelain are now in some cases indistinguishable from the real thing.
A group of researchers at Bristol University in England recently worked with a calcium phosphate based hydrogel to see if it could more organically treat damaged teeth. Rather than replacing an existing tooth, the idea was to fight against acid erosion by artificially boosting enamel levels back to those of a healthy tooth.
Their process involved electro-spinning together a calcium phosphate substance together with polymer and micro-fiber components. The resulting mats were then treated with fluoride, so as to transform them into crystalline enamel-like particles and allow them to be applied directly to the human tooth. These researchers also got lucky along the way, discovering that their original mats could also be used to plug some of the dentin pores of teeth in a way that was organically compatible. Further research is still needed, but these efforts could lead to a major new, off-the-dentist-shelf way to remedy damaged human teeth.
MIStupid.com – Human Teeth, Retrieved February 6, 2011 from http://mistupid.com/health/teeth.htm
About.com – Dentin, Retrieved February 6, 2011 from http://dentistry.about.com/od/termsanddefinitions/g/dentin.htm
About.com – Enamel, Retrieved February 6, 2011 from http://dentistry.about.com/od/termsanddefinitions/g/enamel.htm
Chemistry World – “Patching Up Enamel”, January 25, 2011, Retrieved February 6, 2011 from http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2011/January/25011101.asp
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