New technique helps researchers understand how acid damages teeth

The University of Surrey and the School of Dentistry at the University of Birmingham have developed a new technique to improve understanding of how acid damages teeth at the microstructural level.

The researchers performed a technique called “in situ synchrotron x-ray microtomography” at Diamond Light Source, a special particle accelerator. Electrons were accelerated to near lightspeed to generate bright x-rays that were used to scan dentine samples while they were being treated with acid. This enabled the team to build clear 3D images of dentine’s internal structure with sub-micrometre resolution. By analysing these images, the researchers conducted the first-ever time-resolved 3D study of the dentine microstructural changes caused by acid.

The study, published in Dental Materials, highlights that acid dissolves the minerals in different structures of dentine at different rates. This research aims to develop knowledge that will lead to new treatments that can restore the structure and function of dentine.

Dr Tan Sui, Senior Lecturer in Materials Engineering at the University of Surrey, who led the research group, said: “Relatively little is known about how exactly acid damages the dentine inside our teeth at a microstructural level. This new research technique changes that and opens the possibility of helping identify new ways to protect dental tissues and develop new treatments”.

This research is part of an ongoing collaboration with Prof. Gabriel Landini and Dr Richard Shelton at the School of Dentistry, University of Birmingham.