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Dentists Turn to Chemistry Researchers to Explore Microscopic Holes in Teeth

Originally Published 3 June 1998

Research chemists at the University of Warwick have devised a way of using a special "Scanning Electrochemical Microscope" to explore some of the minute holes to be found in teeth.

Even the smoothest, most perfect of teeth contain millions of microscopic little holes in the dentine just below the surface enamel of a tooth. On average these holes, known as microtubules, are only one micrometer in size (about one fiftieth of the diameter of a human hair). Until now it has been impossible to closely examine the chemical and physical processes around individual microtubes.

However Dr Patrick Unwin and his research team at Warwick have devised a method of using a special "Scanning Electrochemical Microscope" (SECM), one of only 20 such instruments world wide, to get a picture of what's going on within each individual microtube. The research sponsored by the Engineeering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and Unilever (one of the world's leading toothpaste manufacturers) will give a much clearer picture of which types of toothpaste are most effective at dealing with sensitive teeth.

Dr Unwin and team are looking at ways at increasing the sensitivity of the SECM ten-fold which would make it able to distinguish features less than one five hundredth the diameter of a human hair. He also hopes to use the equipment to look at the more general problem of tooth decay.

For further details please contact:

Dr Patrick Unwin
Department of Chemistry,
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523264


Further information about the above press release and all other media services at the University of Warwick can be obtained from:

Peter Dunn, Press Officer
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL
West Midlands
Tel: 024 76 523708