Teeth erosion, when the hard white enamel on the surface of teeth begins to wear away, eventually exposing the pulp below, affects over 50 per cent of young adults in the UK. Consumption of acidic foods – for example, fruit, tomatoes-, fizzy drinks and alcohol (wine) all contribute to the growing problem which is invisible in its early stages. You may not know carbonated water contains acid too.
Even the growing fashion for tooth whitening may play a part since bleaching leads to loss of organic material including collagen in the enamel. Without this, there are minute gaps in the enamel surface which means the enamel can be penetrated more deeply by acids – both the acid from the food and drinks we consume and the acid created by bacteria in the presence of sugar. Enamel is extremely hard, but is susceptible to repeated acid attacks and the effects are cumulative.
Although prevention is of prime importance, repair of tooth enamel has long been a goal of scientists but there have been considerable challenges. Not least, how do you create a material which is identical to tooth enamel which will stay firmly in place on the surface of the teeth? And how do you get it there in the first place?
What we did at Unilever was create a system to restore enamel to teeth called REGENERATE Enamel Science. We developed the Advanced Toothpaste which creates the identical hydroxyapatite mineral to tooth enamel and is clinically proven to bond directly onto enamel in the minute or so that someone is brushing their teeth. It took a decade of research and development to work out how to ensure that this mineral was stable in the toothpaste but would transfer to the teeth during brushing, while still allowing the toothpaste to foam and do its regular job as a cleaning agent. It was quite easy to get the chemical reaction to happen in a beaker in the laboratory, but getting it to work in practice was a very different matter.
We also created the Advanced Enamel Serum which you put straight onto your teeth which does the same job as toothpaste but in a much shorter time. It uses the same patented chemical combinations, and it is proved to recover surface microhardness of tooth enamel by 82 per cent in just three days, applied once in every 24 hours. If you use REGENERATE Enamel Science Advanced toothpaste twice a day, you will start to see the effects after three days.
Because REGENERATE Enamel Science creates layers of new enamel on the surface of the teeth, it also has a tooth whitening effect, because enamel is white.
I have retired now after 30 years as a scientist working on new products. I can honestly say that this new toothpaste is one of the most exciting innovations I have ever helped develop and it should help to revolutionise tooth care in much the same way that the introduction of fluoride helped to reduce the number of cavities when it was added to toothpaste and drinking water. This is the first time that people can buy a product of the shelf which can help repair lost and damaged enamel using tooth-identical mineral without resorting to expensive caps and crowns. It is expensive for now, but this reflects the long and costly process of research and development. I hope that people will think it is worth the premium when they look in the mirror.