Innovating bioengineered materials to preserve function in dental enamel

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Dentistry


The aim of this project is to use a materials science approach to understand the structure-function relationship in the biological material dental enamel. Dental enamel, the outer coating of a tooth, is an extreme biological material since it is the most highly mineralised and hardest tissue in the body. It is made of needle-like crystallites of calcium phosphate that are highly aligned in a 3D hierarchical architecture, which give it excellent mechanical properties. However, acidic drinks and foods can degrade this super-strong material over time, dramatically reducing its effectiveness and leading to irreversible tooth decay.
In this project, novel repair mechanism to optimise the control of guided crystal (re)growth, orientation and alignment will be developed, with the aim of recovering the appearance and mechanical function of the enamel and thus maintaining enamel health throughout life.
Synchrotron X-ray techniques, lab-based tomography, and electron microscopy techniques will be used to obtain robust, reproducible, in situ characterisation of the multiscale structure, mineral density, and mechanical changes that occur in enamel during remineralisation of enamel lesions. Molecular dynamics and first principles modelling will be used to help elucidate experimental data and to provide chemical detail, using both the national (EPSRC funded ARCHER2) and Leeds (ARC4) high performance computing facilities.
This project is at the forefront of developing innovative bioengineering solutions and improving our understanding of the relationship between structure and function in human enamel, understanding the crystallographic orientation, nanostructural changes, and chemistry of dental enamel, as a function of acid attack and subsequent remineralisation processes. The results will give us globally important advances in optimising enamel remineralisation, repair, and improve resistance to future acid challenges. In the wider context of national initiatives to tackle oral health issues, it will be a timely and influential research project.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/W52217X/1 30/09/2021 29/09/2026
2603494 Studentship EP/W52217X/1 30/09/2021 29/09/2025 Palwinder Kaur