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Researchers in China have discovered that a nutrient in green tea may help treat tooth sensitivity-and prevent cavities in those patients.
Green tea has long been touted for its health benefits. The drink is rich in polyphenols, which have been shown to help slow the growth of bacteria associated with gum disease. Now, researchers in China have discovered that green tea may also prove beneficial in treating tooth sensitivity-and preventing the formation of cavities in those patients.
About one in eight people has over-sensitive teeth, according to WebMD. Tooth sensitivity can be attributed to a number of factors, says the American Dental Association, including aggressive tooth brushing, tooth decay, periodontal disease, and wearing any of the enamel, among others.
In order to treat tooth sensitivity, dentists can try to apply fluoride varnish on exposed areas or use a bonding agent to seal the dentin surface. In extreme cases, a root canal or other dental procedure may be required.
The Chinese researchers noted that another common method of treating tooth sensitivity is by plugging microscopic hollow tubes within dentin with a mineral called nanohydroxyapatite. However, the researchers say that these blocked tubules are generally weak in combating daily tooth erosion and abrasion. In addition, cariogenic bacteria can produce biofilm on the dentin surface, causing caries and compromising the tubules’ sealing efficacy.
To address this problem, the researchers encapsulated nanohydroxyapatite and a green tea polyphenol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), in silica nanoparticles, which can reportedly stand up to acid wear and tear. After testing the biomaterial on extracted wisdom teeth, the researchers discovered that it effectively plugged the dentin tubules and released EGCG for at least 96 hours. Furthermore, the material prevented biofilm formation and stood up to tooth erosion and brushing.
“The development…bridges the gap between multifunctional concept and dental clinical practice and is promising in providing dentists a therapeutic strategy for the management of the dentin surface to counter dentin hypersensitivity and caries,” the researchers state.
This isn’t the first time tea has been shown to help fight cavities, In 2001, a group of researchers from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry found that compounds in black tea were capable of killing or suppressing growth and acid production of cavity-causing bacteria in plaque.
The full study, titled “Development of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate-Encapsulated Nanohydroxyapatite/Mesoporous Silica for Therapeutic Management of Dentin Surface,” appeared in Applied Materials & Interfaces.