UCSB scientists have tapped into an unlikely source to develop a more durable oral restoration composite: Mussels.
Experts studied the mechanisms mussels use for adhering to objects, and applied that research to a brand new type of dental restoration composite that will provide an extra level of strength to treated teeth.
Much longer-lasting fillings, crowns, and augmentations.
Traditional Restorations Have a Short Life Span
“It’s as hard as a typical dental restoration but less likely to fracture, ” Kollbe Ahn, a materials scientist at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, said of the composite.
In average, a dental restoration lasts between 5 to 10 years before needing a replacement. Time frame is determined by the sort of restoration and how well the patient cares for the treated tooth. However, the continual onslaught of chewing, acidic and hard foods, poor hygiene, night time tooth grinding, generally fragile teeth and even insufficient dental work can add to a filling’s early failure — and another expensive visit to the dentist.
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Mussels the Perfect Model
In an effort to combat these premature failures, the UCSB researchers wanted to observe nature for help. Mussels to be exact. While understanding the mussels’ art of adhering to irregular surfaces, the scientists found a way not only to maintain strength and solidity in dental composites, but also to incorporate durability.
Essential to this adhesion is what the scientists call dynamic or sacrificial bonding — multiple reversible and weak bonds on the sub-nanoscopic molecular level that can dissipate energy without compromising the overall adhesion and mechanical properties of the load-bearing material.
This kind of proof-of-concept could mean stronger dental fillings. And that, over time, could mean fewer dental visits.
The next step? Scientists say they will work to improve the material’s toughness and strength even further.