The iridescent material that forms the outermost layer of our teeth is known as enamel. It has the distinction of being the strongest substance in the human body. It’s long been renowned for its strength, toughness, viscoelasticity, and high resistance to damage. Despite being several millimeters thick, it is the first and most reliable layer of defense for our teeth. These properties have made the search for a newer, stronger material based on enamel a focus of multiple areas of science.
After Years Of Research, Super Enamel Is On The Horizon
The search for a stronger form of enamel is part of an area of science known as biomimetic materials. As the name implies, biomimetic materials build on living materials as inspiration for superior manmade materials. The unique properties of enamel have made it the focus of research, specifically its structure and unique composition. The mechanical properties our enamel demonstrates have many potential applications. High-quality synthetic enamel could be used in:
- Superior dental replacements
- Bone reinforcing materials
- Better Pacemakers
- Body Armor
- And countless more
These properties are the result of the unique and hierarchical architecture of our enamel. It has a complex structure comprised largely of hydroxyapatite nanowires interconnected with AIP. AIP is an amorphous intergranular phase made of magnesium-substituted amorphous calcium phosphate. Essentially, the enamel is a lattice of materials woven through a calcium-based substance. The result is durability, flexibility, and resistance to damage.
The process that goes into creating this new synthetic enamel is, unsurprisingly, complex. Multiple attempts have been made at creating synthetic enamel before, but they all fell short of the real article. This all changed when scientists discovered this new “super enamel.” Researchers performed initial testing by shaping this synthetic substance into a tooth. This faux tooth was then put through stress test models mimicking what a natural tooth would experience. The result was exciting; it was decidedly more resilient than our natural enamel.
The potential uses for this go beyond even those listed above. One particular application innovators may put this enamel to involves a ‘smart tooth .’Imagine having a prosthetic tooth that does more than just restore your smile. It would also persistently monitor halitosis, bacteria levels, and overall oral health concerns. It’d be like having a dentist on stand-by in your mouth at all times. This is just one instance of how super enamel could take dentistry to the next level.
Super Enamel Is A Thing Of The Future
While these initial discoveries are definitely promising, it’s not time quite to rush to your dentist for super enamel dental replacements. There’s a lot more research to be performed before it ends up being an option at your dental office. That being said, a future with improved oral health thanks to synthetic enamels isn’t far in the future. In the meantime, it’s important to maintain your regularly scheduled dental visits. Give your dental provider a call and schedule your next bi-annual visit. They’ll help you keep your teeth looking great until it’s time to upgrade!