According to recent research, a so-called
“tooth-on-a-chip” can enable more personalized dentistry. This will
give dentists the ability to identify dental filling materials that work better
and last longer based on a patient’s own teeth and oral microbiome.
The miniaturized tooth system is a thin slice
of a human molar placed in between transparent rubber slides that are etched
with tiny channels, through which fluids flow. The research device mimics a
real tooth with a cavity, which allows fluids and bacteria to move between the
cavity opening and the inner tooth. Scientists use a microscope to observe the
tooth as it interacts with materials and bacteria.
While other mini organs such as livers and
lungs have been placed on chips like this for research purposes, this is the
first time an organ-on-a-chip system has been created for dental research, the
“Today’s cavity fillings don’t work as
well as they should. They last for five, seven years on average, and then they
break off,” said Luiz E. Bertassoni, Associate professor, OHSU School of
“They don’t work because we haven’t been
able to figure out what’s happening at the interface of the tooth and the
filling,” Bertassoni continued. “This device can help address that by
giving us a close-up view of what’s happening there in real time. Years from
now, dentists could extract a tooth from a patient, load it into this device,
observe how a dental filling material interacts with the tooth, and pick a
material that’s best for that particular patient.”
The device is designed to help scientists
better understand the inner workings of dental cells in their natural
environment. For example, researchers could use the tooth-on-a-chip to better
understand how teeth form and how they respond biologically to all sorts of
injuries and treatments.
“It opens up a new window into the
complexity of dental care that could change the way we do dentistry quite
significantly,” Bertassoni said.
-article published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Lab on a Chip
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