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Can a Lozenge Rebuild Tooth Enamel and Whiten Teeth?

Imagine having access to a mint that rebuilds tooth enamel and whitens your teeth at the same time—without the possibility of painful side effects.

Imagine having access to a mint that rebuilds tooth enamel and whitens your teeth at the same time—without the possibility of painful side effects. The concept of a restorative and preventive lozenge may be closer to becoming a reality if clinical trials led by a team of University of Washington (UW) researchers yield positive results. 

“Used as a daily oral care product, the dental lozenge is likely to transform traditional tooth whitening with a biomimetic approach that also restores the lost mineral,” says Sami Dogan, DDS, associate professor of restorative dentistry in UW’s School of Dentistry and an investigator on the interdisciplinary team. 

Each lozenge contains phosphorus, calcium ions, and amelogenin-derived peptides (ADPs) that have been genetically engineered from amelogenin, a key protein in tooth development. According to Mehmet Sarikaya, PhD, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical Engineering at UW, the peptide binds to damaged enamel on the teeth and delivers several micrometers of new enamel, helping to build a healthy layer of enamel that integrates with dentin, all while not affecting the oral soft tissue.

A small-scale study, expected to begin later this year, will evaluate the efficacy of the lozenges’ whitening effect of ADPs in the oral cavity. Investigators expect two lozenges a day will help to rebuild enamel, while one lozenge helps to maintain the new layer of enamel. 

The dual-function dental lozenge whitens teeth while also strengthening tooth structure by forming layer by layer of new mineral with repeated use. Dogan explains the lozenge uses a mechanism of action that is additive, as opposed to subtractive in corrosive chemistry-containing whitening products, thereby addressing the side effects of common whitening products, such as dentinal hypersensitivity. Both in-office and over-the-counter tooth whitening products often use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which may cause dentinal hypersensitivity. 

“When used like a simple breath mint, the lozenge dissolves in the saliva, recruits the ions, and remineralizes the tooth surface with the white shade of the pristine mineral,” Dogan says. 

The biomimetic team has previously conducted in vitro and in vivo studies to demonstrate the efficacy of different peptide formations. Each of the formulations—ranging from a gel to toothpaste—is currently in different stages of development. 

Because ADP peptides can be used in various formulations, the products will be accessible and easy to use. For instance, the lozenge can be used with other dental products, such as topical fluoride and toothpaste, as part of a person’s daily self-care routine. “Our team’s goal is to establish preventive and restorative natural dental care technology to provide predictable, easy to use, and accessible products globally to improve oral health everywhere,” says Dogan.

The peptide-guided technology was developed by an interdisciplinary team at UW led by Mehmet Sarikaya with Hanson Fong, PhD, research scientist, Materials Science and Engineering and Deniz Yucesoy, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering at Izmir Institute of Technology in Turkey. Initially, the project was awarded a $100,000 Amazon Catalyst grant through CoMotion, UW’s commercialization center.

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