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Miniature dental device mimics dentin–pulp interface

By Dental Tribune International
January 08, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore., U.S.: For the first time, researchers have developed an organ-on-a-chip system for dental research. The system is designed to help scientists better understand the functioning of live dental pulp cells in the oral cavity and could be used to further knowledge of tooth formation and pulpal response to various injuries and treatments. Additionally, the novel device could help dentists identify dental filling materials that are more efficient and durable based on the specific patient’s teeth and oral microbiome.

The miniature tooth system consists of a thin slice of a human molar placed between transparent rubber slides that are etched with tiny channels through which fluids flow. The device mimics a real tooth with a cavity and allows fluids and bacteria to move between the cavity opening and the inner tooth. The scientists observed the cells’ interaction with dental materials and bacteria under a microscope.

“Today’s cavity fillings don’t work as well as they should. They last for five, seven years on average, and then they break off,” said senior author Dr. Luiz E. Bertassoni, associate professor of restorative dentistry in the Oregon Health and Science University School of Dentistry. “They don’t work because we haven’t been able to figure out what’s happening at the interface of the tooth and the filling.”

“This device can help address that by giving us a close-up view of what’s happening there in real time. Years from now, dentists could extract a tooth from a patient, load it into this device, observe how a dental filling material interacts with the tooth, and pick a material that’s best for that particular patient,” Bertassoni continued.

“It opens up a new window into the complexity of dental care that could change the way we do dentistry quite significantly,” he concluded.

The study, titled “The tooth on-a-chip: A microphysiologic model system mimicking the biologic interface of the tooth with biomaterials,” was published online on Dec. 19, 2019, in Lab on a Chip.

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