Researchers find new way to treat hypersensitivity

New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry researchers are part of an international team that has identified a new approach for treating tooth hypersensitivity that they say can also prevent bacteria from causing further harm.

In their study, a coating made from fluoride and zinc ions in a calcium-phosphate matrix proved effective in reversing damage to the tubules caused by Streptococcus mutans. The coating caused the exposed tubules to close again and also prevented Streptococcus mutans from causing further damage, the researchers said.

Most toothpastes, protective strips, and other treatments for tooth hypersensitivity utilize potassium oxalate to close the tubules. But potassium oxalate cannot prevent a recurrence of tooth hypersensitivity because it is highly susceptible to the effects of acids in tartar, plaque, citrus drinks, and other liquids, the researchers noted.

The researchers compared two groups of dentin samples immersed for 24 hours in a solution containing Streptococcus mutans. One group was treated with the calcium-phosphate/fluoride/zinc formulation for eight minutes, while the second group received no treatment. Bacteria multiplied on the untreated samples, but their growth and development was inhibited on the treated dentin. In addition, the treated group had significantly fewer open tubules than the untreated one.

"Because the calcium, phosphate, and fluoride ions formed a solution that occluded the open dentin tubules, and the zinc ions inhibited bacterial growth and colonization, our findings suggest that this formulation may represent a tooth hypersensitivity treatment that is less susceptible to the effects of acid than treatments made with potassium oxalate," said Racquel LeGeros, Ph.D., a professor and the associate chair of biomaterials and biomimetics at the NYU College of Dentistry.

The findings were presented last month at the International Association for Dental Research meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

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