How does a mushy matrix of protein molecules emerge from an infant’s tooth buds to become the hardened substance known as tooth enamel? To answer this question, an NYU dental professor and his counterpart at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry are partnering on the most comprehensive study to date to investigate the process that causes tooth enamel to develop.
The USC School of Dentistry received a five-year, $2 million award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to lead the study under Principal Investigator Dr. Janet Moradian-Oldak, an Associate Professor of Dentistry at USC.
NYU College of Dentistry received a $100,000 subcontract to chart the molecular structure of amelogenin, the predominant protein in tooth enamel. NYUCD’s Principal Investigator, Dr. John S. Evans, a Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology and of Chemistry, is using a powerful nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer housed at NYUCD to record information about molecular structure.
Understanding the molecular composition of developing tooth enamel will help explain how proteins and mineral crystals assemble into a structured bioceramic coating to protect the erupting teeth, said Dr. Moradian-Oldak. It will also help researchers develop enamel replacement materials to treat amelogenin imperfecta, a childhood genetic disorder characterized by thin, soft tooth enamel that leaves teeth prone to rapid wear and breakage.
Added Dr. Evans, Coating teeth with an enamel substitute would be less invasive than current treatments for amelogenin imperfecta that involve grinding down teeth to make room for crowns or extracting teeth and replacing them with implants or dentures.