Health & Wellbeing

New tooth tech shows promise for stronger, longer-lived fillings

A slice of tooth is prepared for testing with the new filling material and adhesive
A slice of tooth is prepared for testing with the new filling material and adhesive
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A bioreactor is used to simulate an oral environment, in which a slice of tooth has been placed
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A bioreactor is used to simulate an oral environment, in which a slice of tooth has been placed
A slice of tooth is prepared for testing with the new filling material and adhesive
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A slice of tooth is prepared for testing with the new filling material and adhesive

When you get a cavity filled, you may just assume that the fix will last indefinitely. In fact, though, fillings do have a limited lifespan. That said, a new dental material – and a new adhesive to keep it inside the tooth – could allow fillings to last longer than ever before.

Developed by scientists at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU)'s School of Dentistry, the composite material is claimed to be two times more resistant to breakage than regular filling materials. Among other things, it incorporates thiourethane, which is a compound commonly used in protective coatings for decks and cars.

The adhesive, on the other hand, contains polymers called (meth)acrylamides. As compared to standard dental adhesives, it's said to be much more resistant to damage caused by water, bacteria and enzymes in the mouth – after being tested for six months in a simulated oral environment (pictured below), it was found to be 30 percent stronger than such adhesives.

A bioreactor is used to simulate an oral environment, in which a slice of tooth has been placed
A bioreactor is used to simulate an oral environment, in which a slice of tooth has been placed

"Today's dental restorations typically only last seven to 10 years before they fail. They crack under the pressure of chewing, or have gaps form between the filling and the tooth, which allow bacteria to seep in and a new cavity to form," says Assoc. Prof. Carmem Pfeifer, corresponding author of a paper on the research. "Stronger dental materials mean patients won't have to get fillings repaired or replaced nearly as often. This not only saves them money and hassle, but also prevents more serious problems and more extensive treatment."

The paper was recently published in the journal Dental Materials. And as an interesting side note, OHSU scientists previously developed a different long-lasting filling material, which incorporated bioactive glass.

Source: Oregon Health and Science University

4 comments
Aross
I've had amalgam fillings in my mouth since my teen years, over 45 years. In that time I never had any problems wit fillings coming loose, breaking or decay reoccurring. Then about 10 years ago I was told by my dentist all the amalgam fillings had to be replaced because they were poisoning me. That was done except for 2 which I decided to keep. In the last few years most of the replacements have had to be fixed or replaced. It is obvious to me that there was something inherently wrong with the replacement material and process. Was this by design or planned? All I can say is that in my experience the cost to the dentists have gone way down, work needs to be repeated regularly and my costs have gone way up. If this new material is so much better for the patient and will mean less work for the dentists, will we ever see it enter the market?
EZ
Whatever happened to the self-repair technology developed in Europe a few years ago? They used an ozone device to kill the cavity bacteria, enabling the tooth to regrow it's missing matter. Did the FDA kill it or was it declared fake technology?
Grunchy
Amalgam fillings are "ok" they diminish over time via offgassing miniscule amounts of mercury vapor that cause them to shrink and loosen over decades. Other factors are the health of the tooth & the quality of the prep work by the dentist. Aross may have had a more diligent dentist in the past; and most likely had healthier teeth back then as well. I had a composite filling put in last year, it lasted about 2 weeks before it fell out! The dentist replaced it the same way except doubled the UV cure light (which is only a matter of seconds), haven't had a problem since. So it's possible dentists are "scrimping" on cure time; which I don't understand, it's just a few seconds of delay for what should be a job that lasts decades.
David Baldwin
The best kind of tooth filling would be one that is made of the exact same material as your own tooth's composition. That being made of tooth dentin and enamel that can be made to grow and fill in the holes. But it is said that teeth can not regenerate or regrow back their missing structure that have been drilled out. But now we know about stem cells. That is why I think that the study and success of developing "stem cell grown tooth fillings" is the most important advancement here, and where we should be putting our time and best effort into. rather than new stronger artificial, synthetic filling material.