Editorial: Can we rebuild the lost enamel?
We knew since the beginning that once the enamel is lost, it is lost forever because it cannot regenerate naturally. However, this could all change in the future, thanks to Professor Janet Moradian-Oldak, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry. She works out of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, University of Southern California.
Moradian-Oldak has been working on a unique hydrogel based on the chitosan-amelogenin peptide, which can promote the growth of an enamel-like surface on teeth and also remineralize the dentin.
Many might question the need to go for an expensive modality like peptides when we already have Fluoride as a cheaper and easier way to strengthen the tooth surface. The answer lies in the limitation of Fluoride, which basically creates calcium-phosphate patches on the tooth surface, sealing the dentinal tubules. This is more about blocking the nerve rather than rebuilding the enamel. Peptides, on the other hand, painted on a tooth surface that is affected by early caries, erosion and in hypersensitivity situations would rebuild the enamel in a biomimetic or life-like fashion.
Moradian-Oldak has received three grants for this research. The first grant will help her test the amelogenin-derived peptides in the hydrogel form. The second grant, to understand the structural biology of enamel. The third grant will help her team to explore chemistry and develop newer strategies to synthesize a restorative material that behaves similar to enamel.
This brings us to a critical question - Will this innovation reduce the dentist's role? Will this research affect the restorative jobs in dentistry? The answer is No. Patients would still need to visit the dentist. The peptides will only prevent deep decay when applied in the early stages of caries, and rebuild the lost enamel naturally.
We wish Moradian-Oldak and her team all the luck in this research, and wish to see the peptide product soon in the market for clinical application in patients.
Dr. Rajeev Chitguppi
Executive Editor, Dental Tribune (South Asia)