Rebuilding a Tooth to Reduce its Sensitivity
Toothaches have plagued human mouths for millennia. In fact, remains that date back as far as 7000 BC indicate that our early ancestors practiced dentistry, sometimes utilizing techniques that are still in use today. Teeth found among the remains in present-day Pakistan exhibited nearly perfect holes carved out of their centers, typical for a modern dental filling procedure that involves removing decayed tooth tissue. As our collective knowledge continues to grow in the fields of dentistry, medicine, science, and the world around us, so, too, does our desire to unlock the secrets of the issues that affect our oral health. Dallas dentist, Dr. Brock Lynn, examines how an unexpected lesson from nature may help scientists resolve one of the most common dental issues today—tooth sensitivity.
The Structure of a Tooth
Tooth sensitivity is not a disease or infection in itself. Rather, it is a common symptom shared by various maladies, including some that are not even dental related (a sinus infection, for instance). Quite often, however, the problem is a breach in your tooth’s defenses. A healthy human tooth is comprised of layers, the outermost of which is enamel (the strongest, most mineralized substance your body produces). Underneath enamel is your tooth’s main structure, called dentin. Softer than enamel, dentin also contains small holes that lead to the pulp at your tooth’s center. These holes feed sensory information to the nerves in the pulp. When enamel is compromised by damage or acid erosion, your tooth grows more sensitive as it becomes less insulated against food debris, bacteria, hot and cold temperatures, and other irritants.
Taking Lessons from Nature
The process by which organic acid weakens your enamel and saps your teeth of essential minerals is called demineralization, and is the precursor to tooth decay. While enamel cannot regrow, it can remain strong by fortifying itself with minerals (remineralization). If the rate of demineralization exceeds the rate of remineralization, your enamel can grow too weak to protect your teeth. To help combat this inequality, scientists have attempted to bathe teeth with excessively worn enamel and dentin in mineral solutions to promote remineralization. While the solutions successfully remineralized enamel, the dentin remained unhealed. Researchers Quan-Li Li, Chun Hung Chu, and their colleagues understand the need to heal enamel and dentin simultaneously, and they then turned to an unlikely source for the inspiration of their work. Li and Chu decided to mimic the special adhesive that allows mussels to adhere to a variety of surfaces. By adding their sticky ingredient to the mineral baths, the authors made it possible for the minerals to remain in contact with dentin long enough to successfully heal it along with enamel.
Healthy Smiles in Dallas
Until sticky mineral baths become a viable treatment for worn teeth, you can help reduce your risk of toothaches by brushing and flossing your teeth daily, as well as attending your dental checkup and exam at least once every six months. For more information, or to schedule an appointment with your Dallas dentist, call Lynn Dental Care at 972-934-1400. We are in the 75240 area, proudly serving residents of Dallas, Park Cities, Highland Park, and other nearby communities.