Degradable glass particles have been developed that could relieve the pain of toothache for millions of people. They are roughly the size of the affliction they are intended to fix – small tooth cavities.
The glasses are intended for incorporating into toothpaste. They dissolve in the mouth and release both phosphate and calcium, repairing teeth and reducing the likelihood of further decay. The team behind this development, led by Professor Robert Hill from Queen Mary University of London, have won the £25,000 materials science Venture Prize, awarded by the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers.
‘These new particles dissolve faster than existing ones and are also softer than tooth enamel,’ said Professor Hill. ‘They have a more expanded open structure and this allows water to go into the glass structure faster and the calcium and phosphate ions to come out faster. Also, while existing particles are significantly harder and abrade away the enamel during brushing, our new particles will be softer.’
Professor Bill Bonfield, chairman of the Armourers & Brasiers Venture Prize judging panel, stated: ‘It meets our aim to encourage innovative scientific entrepreneurship in the UK and provide funding, which is often difficult to source, to bring new materials science research like this to market.’
In addition to Professor Hill, who is head of dental physical sciences at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, the team comprises: Dr David Gillam, clinical lecturer and dentist; Dr Natalia Karpukhina, an expert on bioactive glasses; and Dr Pushkar Wadke from Queen Mary Innovations.
‘This award will enable us to get our research from the laboratory into a prototype toothpaste,’ said Professor Hill. ‘The difficult step is getting money to enable the translation of research in the laboratory into commercial products. This is what the Venture Prize Award will enable us to do.’