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The University of Southampton

Southampton 3D imaging technologies to help GSK and Sensodyne provide relief for sensitive teeth

Published: 12 April 2021
Relief for sensitive teeth
3D imaging expertise at Southampton will help drive new formulations of Sensodyne products

3D visualisation experts at the University of Southampton are partnering with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare to drive the development of new oral healthcare products for sensitive teeth.

The collaborative research is supporting the leading Sensodyne brand, which is based on innovative science and understanding of dentine hypersensitivity, its causes and the development of new technologies to address it.

Engineering expertise in the national Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS) will help scientists improve formulation development by using cutting edge techniques to visualise and understand the efficacy of sensitivity formulations.

Tooth sensitivity affects one in three people and occurs when dentine, the hard tissue beneath a tooth’s enamel, becomes exposed, revealing tiny holes that lead directly to the nerve, causing a short, sharp pain. GSK’s Sensodyne range include technologies that form a robust and reparative layer over exposed dentine to help protect against sensitivity pain.

Dr Ursula McDonnell, Innovation Principal Scientist for Sensitivity and Acid Erosion at GSK, says: “The new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) funded by Innovate UK will embed an Associate between the University and GSK to identify and advise on novel 3D imaging techniques that reveal how our toothpaste products function and can be improved.

“A better understanding of the mode of action of our products results in better engagement with dentists, hygienists and consumers; which will result in improved compliance in oral healthcare.”

The KTP is supported by lead academic Dr Philipp Schneider, Professor in Biomedical Imaging and Academic Director of the µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre, and academic supervisor Dr Richard Cook.

Dr Cook, a lecturer in nCATS, part of Mechanical Engineering, says: “We are delighted to be sharing our specialist expertise and facilities as we strengthen our long-standing working relationship with GSK. This collaboration will provide new opportunities to enhance dental hypersensitivity treatment and place GSK in a unique position for the oral health consumer healthcare industry.

“This partnership will also contribute to our research-led teaching at Southampton, through case studies in the Biomaterials module as well as undergraduate individual projects and MSc research projects. In addition, guest seminars will give the students and academics insight into the latest developments and foster further collaboration and knowledge exchange.”

Dr Cook holds over 20 years of international academic experience and his research interests centre around the study of biomaterials and calcified tissues at the sub-mm scale.

His recent studies have included nanomechanical and tribological work to investigate the protective layers formed by commercial toothpaste brands and the impact of different toothpaste abrasives on enamel. He has also applied serial block-face scanning electron microscopy to the assessment of dentine treated with different toothpastes.

Dr Sarah Coomasaru, Innovation Director for Sensitivity and Acid Erosion at GSK, says: “This collaboration aims to provide new understanding of tooth sensitivity and visualise the MOA of our technologies that will be used to further strengthen Sensodyne’s position as experts in tooth sensitivity with dental professionals, enabling the brand to develop new products with improved efficacy to help relieve the pain of tooth sensitivity for consumers.”

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that helps improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills in academia.

Dr Matthew Hogan, of the Knowledge Transfer Network, says: “This exciting KTP will give GSK access to the expertise and unique facilities at nCATS. The existing collaborative relationship will be strengthened, providing benefits to both GSK and the University of Southampton.”

The national Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton provides teaching and long-term research into the science behind understanding friction, wear and lubrication. Over the last 12 years, the Centre has worked with hundreds of organisations to solve their engineering challenges and design the most effective ways for surfaces to come into contact with each other most effectively with minimal energy loss or damage.

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