Sweet Tooth

Cavities are a PAIN – and that’s the TOOTH!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

The enamel on our teeth is there to protect them from cavities – but sometimes they happen anyway! And truly life-like tooth enamel is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to create artificially. Or is it?

Enter Hewei Zhao and team from Beihang University in Beijing, China.

They’ve created a NEW material with a structure very similar to the real thing! Tooth enamel is both stiff AND elastic. The engineered version is made up of parallel nanowires packed tightly together. Imagine holding a package of pencils in your hand- stiff but still slightly compressible. 

The nanowires are so tiny they can’t be seen with the naked eye. The researchers molded the engineered enamel into the shape of a tooth. 

And? When tested against intense heat and pressure, it held up even BETTER than natural tooth enamel!

Current dental fillings don’t have that special combination of stiffness and elasticity. When used on decayed chompers, this newly engineered enamel can last even longer!

Now THAT’S something to smile about!

Reference: Zhao, H., Liu, S., Wei, Y., Yue, Y., Gao, M., Li, Y., Zeng, X., Deng, X., Kotov, N. A., Guo, L., & Jiang, L. (2022). Multiscale engineered artificial tooth enamel. Science, 375(6580), 551–556. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abj3343