For over three decades, Sami Dogan, a professor of restorative dentistry at the University of Washington, has encountered various dental problems in his practice. While cavities and dental implants are relatively straightforward to treat, there is one issue that frustrates even the most experienced dentists: tooth hypersensitivity. This condition causes pain when teeth come into contact with hot, cold, or acidic foods.
According to Dogan, the current repair options available in the market only provide temporary relief and do not address the underlying cause of hypersensitivity. Patients often return after a few weeks or months with the same complaint. Motivated to find a permanent solution, Dogan collaborated with a team of materials engineers at UW to develop a natural protocol for rebuilding lost tooth minerals. They believed that this approach could offer a long-lasting remedy for tooth sensitivity.
Their solution, which was presented in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, involves creating new mineral microlayers that penetrate deep into the tooth, providing effective and durable natural protection. Dogan’s ultimate objective is to provide accessible relief for the millions of adults worldwide who suffer from tooth sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when acids, such as those produced when saliva breaks down sugar, erode the tooth enamel. If left untreated, this erosion, known as demineralization, can expose the pathways between the hard exterior and the softer interior of the tooth, called dentin and pulp. Without proper defense, nerves and blood vessels become susceptible to irritation, leading to pain.
Since the body lacks the ability to repair or regrow worn enamel, the UW researchers designed their solution to mimic the natural molecular processes involved in tooth development. At the core of their approach is a peptide derived from a larger protein called amelogenin, which plays a crucial role in the biological development of human teeth. This peptide, known as sADP5, binds to calcium and phosphate ions—essential components of tooth mineral—and utilizes them to construct new mineral microlayers.
Lead author Deniz T. Yücesoy, formerly a postdoctoral researcher at UW and now an assistant professor at the Izmir Institute of Technology in Turkey, explains that their technology recreates the same minerals found in teeth, including enamel, cementum, and dentin. These minerals had previously dissolved through demineralization, causing sensitivity. The newly formed microlayers effectively seal off the communication channels with the tooth nerves, eliminating hypersensitivity.
The peptide can be incorporated into various oral health products, including dental lozenges, mouthwashes, dental gels, tooth whiteners, and toothpaste. In preclinical trials, participants received a dental lozenge containing a calcium and phosphate core coated with a layer of flavoring infused with the peptide. Hanson Fong, a co-author of the paper and an assistant teaching professor of materials science and engineering at UW, emphasizes that while different delivery methods and formulations exist, the peptide is the essential ingredient responsible for the efficacy of these products.
Source: University of Washington