An enamel restorative treatment that can prevent infections and alleviate sensitivity may not be too far off according to scientists at the University of Birmingham in England, whose study was published in the October 2015 Journal of Dentistry. Researchers from the university's schools of dentistry and chemistry joined efforts to test the effectiveness of sub-micron particles to deliver compounds into dentinal tubules to close them.
Previous attempts at creating a restorative agent have been unsuccessful because the compounds react to the hard dental surface tissues. Researchers discovered that the problem is the proclivity for compound particles to cluster together on the surface before reaching the tubules.
The Birmingham scientists looked to using silica nanoparticles treated with a hydrophobic surface coating to resolve the issue of aggregation. One of the researchers, Professor Zoe explains why they chose silica:
These silica particles are available in a range of sizes, from nanometre to sub-micron, without altering their porous nature. It is this that makes them an ideal container for calcium based compounds to restore the teeth, and antibacterial compounds to protect them. All we needed to do was find the right way of coating them to get them to their target. We have found that different coatings does [sic] change the way that they interact with the tooth surface.
Three different types of fluorosurfactant were tested: Zonyl® FSA, Triton™ X-100 and Tween 20. Examination with a scanning electron microscope and confocal fluorescence microscope revealed that the silica particles coated with Zonyl tended to concentrate at the tubule (instead of aggregating on the surface).
The researchers summarized the clinical significance:
The use of silica sub-micron particles on hard dentine tissues is dependent on the modification of the surface coating of the particles. This may influence how particles are incorporated in potential delivery vehicles applied to the dentine surface with the employment of a fluorosurfactant showing promise.
Future research will involve improving the coatings so that the compounds achieve tubule occlusion.
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