Tackling tooth sensitivity with green tea

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An ice-cold drink is refreshing in the summer but for people with sensitive teeth it can be excruciating. Worse, there’s no permanent cure for this condition.

Now researchers from Wuhan University in China have developed a new material with an extract from green tea that could fix this problem—as well as help prevent cavities in susceptible patients.

Their findings are reported in the July issue of ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Tooth sensitivity commonly occurs when the protective layers of teeth are worn away, revealing a bony tissue called dentin. This tissue contains microscopic hollow tubes that, when exposed, allow hot and cold liquids and food to contact the underlying nerve endings in the teeth, causing pain. Unprotected dentin is also vulnerable to cavity formation.

Plugging these tubes with a mineral called nano-hydroxyapatite is a longstanding approach to treating sensitivity. But the material doesn’t stand up well to regular brushing, grinding, erosion or acid produced by cavity-causing bacteria.

Cui Huang and his team, aiming to tackle sensitivity and prevent bacteria at the same time, encapsulated nano-hydroxyapatite and the green tea polyphenol EGCG in silica nanoparticles, which can stand up to acid and wear and tear. EGCG has also been shown in previous studies to fight Streptococcus mutans, which forms biofilms that cause cavities.

The group’s subsequent testing on extracted wisdom teeth showed that the material plugged the dentin tubules, released EGCG for at least 96 hours, stood up to tooth erosion and brushing and prevented biofilm formation. It also showed low toxicity.

Based on these findings, the researchers said the material could indeed be a good candidate for combating tooth sensitivity and cavities.

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