Bioactive glass for dental composites

Dental caries, or tooth decay, are a problem that affects most people, even in developed countries. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 92% of U.S. adults ages 20–64 years old have had tooth decay.

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth that combine with food and saliva to form plaque. When plaque is not removed from teeth immediately, tooth decay begins. And stats show that a little more than one-fourth (26%) of U.S. adults have untreated tooth decay.

We all know the role fluoride has in reducing cavities. It’s found in our water, our toothpaste, and some mouthwashes. Now, researchers are experimenting with putting it in dental composites, which could offer promising new restorative materials to treat dental caries.

Researchers from Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Germany, and the U.K., led by Salvatore Sauro, dentistry professor at CEU Cardenal Herrara, have evaluated materials containing bioactive glasses to determine how effective they are in reducing the breakdown of collagen fibers—the part of connective tissue that helps hold teeth in place.

Sauro, who specializes in developing new restorative biomaterials, and the team wanted to find new biomaterials with remineralizing properties, which is one of the big challenges of restorative dentistry, according to a news release.

They compared two resins that contain tiny particles of bioactive glasses—one with Bioglass 45S5, a special type of bioglass that contains a high ratio of calcium to phosphorous—and another that had experimental bioactive glass particles mixed with fluoride and phosphates. They tested each resin on demineralized samples of human dentin, the part of the tooth located directly under the enamel, and soaked the samples in artificial saliva for one month.

Using infrared spectroscopy and a scanning electron microscope, the team evaluated the bioactive resins before and after the process to determine the difference in effectiveness between the two samples. They found that the bioactive glass that contained fluoride and phosphates showed less degradation and increased remineralization than the sample containing Bioglass 45S5.

“The resin with bioactive glass that we have enriched with fluorine and phosphates has been shown to be more active to inhibit the proteolytic enzymes of the dentin and more bioactive than the one containing only Bioglass,” Sauro says in the release. “As we observed in the study, this is due to the fluoridated ions released and the large amount of phosphates that accelerate the remineralization of the dentin and slow down its degradation.”

So fluoride- and phosphate-enriched bioglass could appear in future dental materials, such as fillings, crowns, veneers, and other restorative components. That’s good news for those of us who have had to make multiple trips to the dentist over the years.

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