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Mussels could help cure tooth sensitivity


New research has revealed that the natural ‘glue’ used by mussels to attach themselves to rocks could be the cure for sensitive teeth. Scientists have used the sticky secretions to create a compound that could help rebuild areas of enamel that have started to erode over time.

Tooth sensitivity is a huge problem in the UK, with three quarters of the country suffering from it at some stage; there are chewing gums and tooth pastes that can help temporarily but researchers at the University of Hong Kong are hoping to develop a treatment that could restore the minerals and get rid of the problem permanently.

Scientists created a sticky polydopamine that was mixed with calcium and phosphate to reform dentine and enamel. Authors of the research said that the product may provide ‘a simple universal technique to induce enamel and dentine remineralisation simultaneously.’

The breakthrough came when studies last year showed that human teeth are as strong as shark teeth, with an enamel outer layer and an elastic dentine layer beneath; a discovery that experts are hoping can assist in the manufacture and repair of dentures. Professor Matthias Epple – lead author of the original study – said that ‘It would be great if, sometime in the future, one could repair teeth with a material which is more natural than today’s provisional solutions.’

Human teeth are as strong as a sharks


After comparing the micro-structure of human and shark teeth, scientists at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany were surprised to discover that the two species have something in common; the strength of their teeth is more or less the same. Although sharks have a very tough enamel covering their teeth, overall they are not much stronger than those of the average human.

Lead researcher Professor Matthias Epple explains that this was related to the minute structures of teeth, saying ‘The crystals in human teeth have a special arrangement and they are ‘glued together’ by proteins which stop cracks from running through the whole tooth.’ The scientists studied teeth from the shortfin mako shark and the tiger shark, and found that while they were similar to human teeth in structure, the fish used their teeth in a very different way; the mako shark tears into its prey, whereas tiger sharks cut into the flesh. The tiger shark is considered the most dangerous of its species.

Although human teeth are technically softer than those belonging to the tiger shark, they have a similar structure, which means that they are on a par with regards to strength. The researchers are hoping to use the information to build stronger, more durable dentures; Professor Epple says that ‘it would be great if, sometime in the future, one could repair teeth with a material which is more natural than today’s provisional solutions.’

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