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Will we have stronger, enduring teeth? New material for tooth fillings is being investigated

Contributed by: NMI3

Scientists used neutrons and X-rays to better understand the structure and hydration process of glass ionomer cements. This material is a promising alternative for dental fillings.
Dental fillings are normally used to restore teeth, for instance after a cavity. However the materials currently in use need to be replaced often in patients who suffer from frequent cavities and they bind to the teeth through an adhesive that is rather vulnerable. A team of scientists from the University of Copenhagen are testing glass ionomer that could potentially be used as alternative for dental fillings.

Glass ionomer cements are an interesting option for dental fillings as they do not require an adhesive, they release fluoride which makes teeth healthier, and have good biological properties. Furthermore their preparation requires no special equipment or illumination, which is a big advantage in remote areas without electricity.

To better understand their structure and hydration process Heloisa Bordallo and Ana Benetti from the University of Copenhagen analysed two different cements. They have conducted X-ray experiments at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin in Germany (HZB), and to better see the hydrogen atoms they used neutron scattering at the ISIS neutron source in the UK, the Institute Laue-Langevin in France and at HZB, the latter being funded by NMI3.

They then compared the images obtained from X-ray and neutron scattering to see whether the pores were dry or filled with liquid. The results suggest that the strongest material consists of cement powder mixed with a polyacid. The liquid binds faster to the cement, preventing free liquid to fill the pores. In fact glass ionomer cements could be stronger if we could control how the hydrogen atoms move within the material. By knowing this, the researchers can now infer on the material’s durability and investigate further.

This is still work-in-progress but it seems that in the future our smiles will show stronger, enduring teeth.

*Original Publication: DOI:10.1038/srep08972

NMI3 is a European consortium of 18 partner organisations from 12 countries, including all major facilities in the fields of neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy. It receives funding from the European Union's 7th Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration.




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  • Germany, Denmark, France, United Kingdom
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