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There’s more to glass than meets the eye - improved glass toothpaste promises to eliminate the pain of sensitive teeth

Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London’s Dental Institute have developed new glasses for use in toothpastes aimed at eliminating tooth pain that occurs on taking hot or cold foodstuffs into the mouth. About 40 per cent of adults suffer from this often acute discomfort known as ‘dentine hypersensitivity.’

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The new glasses are designed for incorporating into toothpastes and dissolve slowly in the mouth releasing calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions, which stimulate the formation of the tooth mineral on the surface of the teeth.  This newly formed tooth mineral seals the small tubules that permeate the tooth structure, and act to transfer hot or cold stimuli to the nerve located at the centre of the tooth which causes pain. Blocking these tubules makes them unable to conduct sensation to the nerve, thereby eliminating discomfort.

Dentine hypersensitivity is particularly common in older people as the gums can recede with age exposing more of the permeable dentine, and giving rise to the expression “long in the tooth”.

Professor Robert Hill, an expert on glasses at Queen Mary says most people regard glass as being chemically stable and inert, but these special glasses are designed to dissolve in the mouth. He said: “Our new glasses are much better than existing glass used for toothpastes, since they contain fluoride that results in the formation of a much more acid stable form of the tooth mineral. The new tooth mineral formed is therefore much more durable in the mouth.

“The release of fluoride is also much more controllable compared with using existing toothpastes based on soluble fluorides, and this has the advantage that you don’t use too much fluoride which can cause dental fluorosis - sometimes associated with mottling of the tooth. The new glasses also contain potassium and release potassium ions, which act to inhibit nerve transmission, so even if not all the tubules are blocked the pain is still reduced.  A further advantage is that these glasses are much softer and should therefore not abrade the tooth as readily as existing toothpastes.”

The glasses were developed following a three-way collaboration between Professor Robert Hill; Dr David Gillam, Clinical Lecturer and expert in dentine hypersensitivity at Queen Mary, and Dr Andy Bushby, Head of Nanovision at Queen Mary.

“We have patented these new glass compositions and hope to have our new toothpaste on the shelves of major chemists and supermarkets in about a year’s time,” said Barny Cox from Queen Mary Innovation Ltd.

In the next five years, the group plan to develop alternative versions of the glasses for use in treating Periodontal Disease and repairing bone.

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