A major breakthrough in oral health care has been brought closer to the marketplace by the licensing of several tooth remineralization and desensitization applications from the American Dental Association Health Foundation to SmithKline Beecham Corp., Philadelphia, Pa., a leading international manufacturer of health care products. The ADAHF is located at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md.
The technology was invented by Ming S. Tung, an ADAHF research associate in the Paffenbarger Research Center at NIST. His work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Dental Research, one of the National Institutes of Health.
The license agreement gives SmithKline Beecham rights to develop and market commercial products based on amorphous calcium phosphate compounds patented by the ADAHF. These compounds make teeth less sensitive to hot, cold, air pressure and touch and increase the resistance of teeth to dental caries. These compounds may be applied topically by dental professionals and individuals.
Teeth become sensitive when tooth enamel erodes or the gumline recedes, exposing tiny microscopic holes, or tubules, that lead directly to nerves inside the tooth. These nerves are the source of sensitive teeth pain. Current products work to desensitize the exposed nerves.
The new remineralization method involves the use of amorphous calcium phosphate compounds in a carbonate solution that crystallizes to form hydroxyapatite, the primary mineral in teeth and bone. The process disperses hydroxyapatite into the tooth structure to "fill" the microscopic holes and repair early cavities, actually making teeth stronger.
"Clinical studies by SmithKline Beecham and other tests carried out in our laboratories at NIST have demonstrated the efficacy of the amorphous calcium phosphate solution to desensitize teeth," says Frederick C. Eichmiller, ADAHF/PRC director.
In the past, commercialization of a solution for remineralization has been prevented by problems such as instability, slow diffusion and reaction time, and surface precipitation. The new calcium phosphate process overcomes these problems and remineralizes teeth rapidly.
"We believe that our future products, based on this new technology, will provide significant benefits to consumers," says John Dent, vice president, R&D; SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare. "We are pleased to be working with the ADAHF and look forward to a productive collaboration."
While SmithKline Beecham will have exclusive license in the United States for the remineralization process in products for several oral care applications, it will share foreign co-exclusive rights with Enamelon Inc., of Yonkers, N.Y., for mouthwash and professional jells. Enamelon holds exclusive rights worldwide for the remineralization process in toothpaste, chewing gum, food and candy. Enamelon was awarded these fields in 1992.
SmithKline Beecham, with headquarters in both Great Britain and the United States, is one of the world's leading health care companies. It discovers, develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceuticals, vaccines, non-prescription medicines, health-related consumer products and clinical laboratory testing services.
The dental materials program at NIST is a cooperative activity involving researchers from the institute's Polymers Division; research associates from the ADAHF, NIDR, the private industrial sector; and guest scientists from leading dental schools.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.