Does your morning coffee make you wince in pain, or your sundae make you want to scream? You may be among the one in eight American adults with sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth are caused when the tooth enamel erodes, exposing the bony tissue beneath it. Known as dentin, this bony tissue is full of microscopic, hollow tubes that connect to the nerve endings in your teeth. When exposed to hot or cold foods, those nerves can cause a sharp, painful reaction.
Though there is no cure for sensitive teeth, there are many products designed to temporarily reduce the sensitivity by plugging the tubes in the dentin with a mineral called nanohydroxyapatite. Unfortunately, while effective, treatments with nanohydroxyapatite are only temporary fixes that offer no protection against the normal wear and tear your teeth endure on a daily basis.
But a new product under development by researchers at the School and Hospital of Stomatology at Wuhan University in Wuhan, China, is poised to change all that. The researchers have found a way to encapsulate nanohydroxyapatite with a naturally occurring green tea polyphenol called epigallocatechin-3 gallate (or EGCG) that not only helps to reduce tooth sensitivity, but also protects the teeth from acid erosion as well as the s. mutans bacteria responsible for cavities.
Dr. Alexandra George of Wexford, Pennsylvania, believes this could be big news for patients with and without sensitive teeth.
“The EGCG treatment is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, because it doesn’t just prevent sensitivity but it protects the teeth from cavities, too,” says George. “This is especially important because exposed dentin can leave your teeth more susceptible to decay, so you need that extra protection.”
Though the EGCG treatment is not a permanent fix for tooth sensitivity, it was found to protect teeth for up to four days before needing to be reapplied.
As for those patients who don’t have sensitive teeth but still want the added protection against bacteria and acid erosion that EGCG offers, the good news is that EGCG is currently being studied for non-sensitive teeth as well.
“I think we will be hearing a lot more about EGCG and all the amazing things it can do for our teeth in the coming years,” says George. “It’s a naturally occurring substance, it has low toxicity, and it shows a lot of promise in regard to protecting teeth.”