Thu Mar 10,2005 8:52 PM ET
By ALEX DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press Writer
BALTIMORE – An additive that provides the minerals used by teeth to rebuild themselves could find its way into products ranging from toothpaste to chewing gum, University of Maryland researchers say.
Calcium and phosphorous ions found in saliva are used by teeth during the natural repair process. The additive, named Novamin, provides more of the ions, which can decrease with age, the researchers said.
So far, the Novamin, has been added to several products used by dentists and a toothpaste sold as a demonstration product by the company marketing the additive, Alachua, Fla.-based NovaMIn Technology Inc., said Randy Scott, the company’s president and chief executive officer.
One of the dental products treats sensitive teeth. Unlike products that deaden nerves to make teeth less sensitive, the product fills in tiny holes that cause the sensitivity, Scott said.
Other products include a less abrasive paste for teeth cleaning and a root conditioner. The company is working with several large national brands and consumer products containing Novamin should be on store shelves early next year, Scott said.
“Ultimately, we hope to see it in toothpaste as a common ingredient. It also could be incorporated in chewing gum, dental floss, mouth wash, you think of a dental care product and it could incorporate Novamin,” Scott said.
The additive, one of a number of advances on display this week at the annual convention of the International Association for Dental Research, is a spinoff of research into bone regeneration, said Dr. Gary Hack, one of the developers of Novamin.
The work is similar to that of Japanese researchers, who announced earlier this year that they had developed a synthetic tooth enamel that can repair early tooth decay without the need for drilling and fillings. The substance developed by the Japanese researchers has yet to be made into a product.
Kevin Smith, CEO of Omnii Pharmaceuticals, which is marketing the sensitivity product, said it is cheaper and easier to demonstrate to the FDA that a new product works on sensitive teeth than that it helps prevent cavities.
Smith said his company is hoping to market more products containing additives such as Novamin. To do that, he is hoping to convince the FDA that it should allow approval of products for a new category of treatment — remineralizing teeth to repair a lesion before it becomes a cavity.
Researchers at the conference in Baltimore also presented the results of studies of how stem cells guide tooth formation.
Pamela Yelick of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine said researchers have succeeded in transplanting tooth buds in animals and growing full teeth. Now, they are experimenting with cells cultured from tooth buds that have been placed on synthetic substrates and coaxed into developing into tooth cells.
However, growing new teeth in humans, she said, “is years away, unfortunately.”