A British research team has won an award for developing a new material in toothpaste that fills cavities and could substantially affect the future of dental care.
The scientists, led by Robert Hill, Ph.D., head of dental physical sciences at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London, won the Armourers & Brasiers Venture Prize. The £25,000 ($37,800) award will allow the team to turn their research into a prototype toothpaste that eventually could become available to the public.
The glass-based material is in the form of degradable particles about the size of small cavities that form in teeth. The particles would be incorporated into toothpaste, which would dissolve in the mouth and release calcium and phosphate ions that enter the tiny holes and remineralize the tooth. The goal is to reduce tooth pain and decay while repairing affected teeth.
"These new particles dissolve faster than existing ones and are also softer than tooth enamel," said Hill. "They have a more expanded open structure and this allows water to go into the glass structure faster and the calcium and phosphate ions to come out faster. Also, while existing particles are significantly harder and abrade away the enamel during brushing, our new particles will be softer."
From laboratory to market
William Bonfield, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of medical materials at the University of Cambridge, headed the judging panel that awarded the Venture Prize. He said the new toothpaste material could affect millions of people. The World Health Organization's Global Burden of Diseases study estimates that tooth decay affects 35 percent of the world's population.
The Venture Prize is intended to encourage scientific innovation and entrepreneurship by providing funding that allows laboratory research to evolve in products readily available for everyday use.
Tooth decay can occur through a variety of ways, including acid erosion caused by certain types of foods and beverages, bacteria that builds up when proper dental hygiene techniques aren't followed and by enamel that wears away by overly hard brushing with stiff bristles in toothbrushes.
The cavities that can result from tooth decay are a primary reason why people need regular dental check-ups. With the cost of dental services on the rise, many people who cannot afford dental insurance have an alternative. Discount dental plans may be purchased that offer reduced prices for common oral health services such as fillings for cavities.
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