Snapshot of the repairing experiment on a human tooth
Snapshot of the repairing experiment on a human tooth

Image of the Day: Enamel Repair

Scientists engineered a new material that could be developed for use in treating tooth decay.

Nicoletta Lanese
Sep 3, 2019

ABOVE: Snapshot of the repairing experiment on a human tooth

Scientists repaired damaged human teeth in laboratory experiments using a new material that mimics the mechanical properties of tooth enamel. Tooth enamel bears a fish-scale–like structure that has proven difficult to emulate in engineered materials, though researchers have come close using aggregations of charged particles known as calcium phosphate ion clusters (CPICs). But so far, materials made with CPICs have been too weak for use in patients. 

To produce a more stable substance, researchers generated CPICs by mixing the organic compound triethylamine with two ethanol solutions. When applied to human teeth, the resulting material took on the structure and orientation of natural enamel within 48 hours, the team reported August 30 in Science Advances. The toxicity of the material will have to be tested before it can be applied in human patients.

Scanning electron microscope images of human tooth enamel six hours, 12 hours, and 48 hours after the CPIC material was applied. The blue area is the native enamel, and the green area is the repaired enamel. Scale bars are 1 μm.

C. Shao et al., “Repair of tooth enamel by a biomimetic mineralization frontier ensuring epitaxial growth,” 5:eaaw9569, Sci Adv, 2019.

Nicoletta Lanese is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at