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The role of proteases in dental erosion

*Please note, this project is self-funded*

Project details

First supervisor: Prof Guy Carpenter

Duration of award: 3 years minimum

Funding: Self-funded

Mode of study: full time

Eligibility: Home/EU, overseas 

Start date: Throughout academic year

Application deadline:  open until suitable candidate is found

Reference number:  2020/DOCS/08

Project description

Erosive tooth wear is a common clinical condition that can result in destruction of tooth tissue(1). This PhD will investigate the role of proteases on the salivary pellicle in the protection of enamel from erosion and abrasion. 

Tooth erosion is a chemo-physical process whereby acids can act alone, or together with the mechano-physical processes of abrasion and attrition. Epidemiological data suggests that tooth wear is common but variable between people.  Whilst the causative agents revolve around acids the person to person variation is difficult to explain.  There must be factors that protect teeth from dietary acids which become overwhelmed when dietary acids are frequently consumed during a day.

The protective nature of saliva will be investigated in this project using polished natural enamel. It is well established that a subset of salivary proteins bind to teeth and maintain a high calcium environment- this is termed the acquired enamel pellicle.  There is reasonable evidence that the enamel pellicle is important to protection both from clinical and laboratory studies(3). Laboratory activated pellicle is known to be thicker than that found in natural oral cavity and so may be even more protective when assessed in the laboratory(4).  In our previous study one of the most important proteins statherin, was found to be reduced in erosion patients (4).  One explanation is that proteases digested statherin, thus reducing the calcium shell around teeth, leading to less remineralisation after an acidic challenge.  We will examine this theory by using in vitro tests and purified proteases. 

1.         Bartlett DW, Lussi A, West NX, Bouchard P, Sanz M, Bourgeois D. Prevalence of tooth wear on buccal and lingual surfaces and possible risk factors in young European adults. J Dent. 2013. 10.1016/j.jdent.2013.08.018

2.         O'Toole S, Bernabe E, Moazzez R, Bartlett D. Timing of dietary acid intake and erosive tooth wear: A case-control study. J Dent. 2017; 56: 99-104. 10.1016/j.jdent.2016.11.005

3.         Mutahar M, Carpenter G, Bartlett D, German M, Moazzez R. The presence of acquired enamel pellicle changes acid-induced erosion from dissolution to a softening process. Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 10920. 10.1038/s41598-017-11498-1

4.         Moazzez RV, Austin RS, Rojas-Serrano M, Carpenter G, Cotroneo E, Proctor G, et al. Comparison of the Possible Protective Effect of the Salivary Pellicle of Individuals with and without Erosion. Caries Res. 2013; 48: 57-62. 10.1159/000352042

Research training :The PhD will provide training in biochemical methods such as electrophoresis and immunoblotting. Confocal imaging of erosion processes will also be used along with mass spec to assess ions and proteins.  This work will train students in methodology design, statistics and with soft skills in presentation and academic writing. 

To view entry requirements and further general information, see Dental and Health Sciences Research MPhil/PhD prospectus page.

Next steps

Please apply online at following these steps:

  1. Register a new account/login
  2. Once logged in, select Create a new application
  3. Enter ‘Dental and Health Sciences Research MPhil/PhD (Full-time)/(Part-time)' under Choose a programme. Please ensure you select the correct mode of study
  4. Select a start date from the list under Entry requirements on this webpage.
  5. Please note: Applicants must include the project reference number (2020/DOCS/08) in the 'Research proposal' 


Contact for further information

Prof Guy Carpenter


Related Centre: Centre for Host-Microbiome Interactions


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