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Biomedical engineers develop strong synthetic tooth enamel

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Emulating nature, a newly engineered artificial tooth enamel goes beyond imitation and surpasses the abilities of natural tooth enamel and previously manufactured materials in ratings of required stiffness, viscoelasticity, strength, hardness and toughness. (Image: Anel Alijagic/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

By Dental Tribune International

Tue. 15 February 2022

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BEIJING, China: Even with modern science and materials, the ability to fully replicate natural enamel has been elusive. In a recently published study, a group of researchers has presented a newly engineered material that mimics the composition and structure of natural tooth enamel, the hardest substance in the human body, and even exceeds the properties of natural enamel. The scientists argued that the multiscale design used in the study is suitable for the production of high-performance materials.

The crux of the problem of artificially replicating enamel lies in both the minute scale of constructing a material as intricate as enamel and achieving the same strength as natural enamel. The properties of enamel originate from its hierarchical architecture of hydroxyapatite nanowires and their interconnections. In the new study, the researchers synthesised aligned hydroxyapatite nanowires and coated these with amorphous zirconia, resulting in structures that resemble natural tooth enamel’s atomical, nanoscale and micro-scale organisation.

In a series of tests, the team applied the artificial enamel to a variety of specimens, including human teeth. Summarising the results, the researchers wrote: “The nanocomposite simultaneously exhibited high stiffness, hardness, strength, viscoelasticity, and toughness, exceeding the properties of enamel and previously manufactured bulk enamel-inspired materials.”

The study, titled “Multiscale engineered artificial tooth enamel”, was published in the 4 February 2022 issue of Science. It was conducted by a team of researchers from Beihang University and the Peking University School and Hospital of Stomatology in China as well as the University of Michigan in the US.

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