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Dr. Antonios Anastasiou wants to be able to print you a new tooth. He’s not there yet, but a collaboration of material scientists, laser engineers and clinicians at the University of Leeds in the UK, have reached an important milestone along the way. They can print new layers of enamel onto the surface of teeth, preventing the exposure of tiny holes called dentine tubules, that can cause wincing sensitivity to hot and cold as well as become breeding grounds for the bacteria that cause cavities.
Twinges. Painful teeth. About one in 10 people suffer from dental sensitivity caused by worn enamel. But rather than providing short-term solutions like special toothpastes or fillings, new techniques could print whole new layers of enamel onto teeth – or even stimulate the body to grow new ones.
Right now, the materials that dentists use to repair enamel can’t provide more than a temporary fix. They fade with time and leave voids that bacteria can get to.
The technology being explored by Dr. Anastasiou should overcome these problems. ‘We use a material similar to the natural mineral of teeth like hydroxyapatite or some other type of calcium phosphate,’ Dr. Anastasiou explained.
That new material can be printed onto teeth using a femtosecond laser, which heats up small iron oxide nanoparticles in the material to bond it to the existing dental surface. The small heating area avoids damaging the surrounding tooth. They can also add cerium and other exotic elements to the mix to give the new material antibacterial properties.
Read more about this innovative dental option by Ethan Bilby at The Naked Scientists