What’s the future of composite resin materials? Up to now, various generations of the original large particle size composite have emerged. These days, dentists have to keep up with the terms that have been added to the materials such as micro-filled, hybrid, micro-hybrid, nanohybrid, and the most recent, nanodimer. Yes, nano-manufacturing is the future of dental materials, but it’s not where the greatest advancements will be made. If you ask many dental professionals, the answer is simple, the future will consist of a material that lasts longer than the average eight years of today’s materials. But what if the future of composite resins included an additional medicinal benefit? What if the composite resin could not only be a restorative material, but also a weapon against infection?
Back in 2013, the National Institute of Health awarded 2.8 million dollars to a research effort to develop the next generation dental composite. The research was funded for five years and sought to test a prototype glass-zirconia composite dental crown. If the research is a success, the dental world will be introduced to a composite with a higher load-bearing capacity and less risk of a fracture. Of course, additional testing will follow to measure the safety and efficacy of the glass-ceramic crown material.
Although the development of a stronger composite material is an essential step in the progression towards the future of dentistry, scientists in the UK are looking to combine that research with a microbial additive. Over at The School of Oral and Dental Sciences at the University of Bristol, a research team wanted to inject Silver doped Titanium Dioxide (Ag-TiO2), a photo-catalyst with antimicrobial properties, into an epoxy resin composite material. They wanted to test the antibacterial properties, in hopes of expanding the function of dental composites.
Photocatalysts like Silver Titanium Oxide work by degrading chemical pollutants and biological infections by harvesting light as an energy source to excite electrons from valence to conduction bands. As a result, the generated electrons undergo oxidation and reduction reactions of the organic pollutants into the end-products carbon dioxide and water. Titanium dioxide is a highly photolytic semiconductor, non-hazardous, and extremely hydrophilic. The compound has received wide notoriety for its properties in recent years.
The Scientists at the University of Bristol manufactured Ag-TiO2 particles with a ball milling method and added an epoxy resin with a centrifuge mixer. The scientists then used UV spectrophotometry to assess the photolytic properties of the silver titanium dioxide and how it reacted with the resin. The samples were assessed with the inclusion of streptococcus mutans under various lighting conditions.
The results were exactly what the scientists anticipated. The silver titanium dioxide without the epoxy resin was able to produce an anti-microbial effect on the S.mutans when the two came into contact under visible light conditions. The silver titanium dioxide that was doped into the epoxy resin had a lower photolytic effect, but expressed a strong antimicrobial effect. The study showed promising results for the future of dentistry. The benefits of a highly durable, antimicrobial, dental composite could be used clinically to fight infection in the treated area.