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Nanotechnology dental fillings that kill bacteria and re-mineralize the tooth

Scientists using nanotechology at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry have created the first cavity-filling composite that kills harmful bacteria and regenerates tooth structure lost to bacterial decay.

Rather than just limiting decay with conventional fillings, the new composite is a revolutionary dental weapon to control harmful bacteria, which co-exist in the natural colony of microorganisms in the mouth, says professor Huakun (Hockin) Xu, PhD, MS.

"Tooth decay means that the mineral content in the tooth has been dissolved by the organic acids secreted by bacteria residing in biofilms or plaques on the tooth surface. These organisms convert carbohydrates to acids that decrease the minerals in the tooth structure," says Xu, director of the Division of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering in the School's Department of Endodontics, Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry.

After a dentist drills out a decayed tooth, the cavity still contains residual bacteria. Xu says it is not possible for a dentist to remove all the damaged tissue, so it's important to neutralize the harmful effects of the bacteria, which is just what the new nanocomposites are able to do.

The researchers also have built antibacterial agents into primer used first by dentists to prepare a drilled-out cavity and into adhesives that dentists spread into the cavity to make a filling stick tight to the tissue of the tooth. "The reason we want to get the antibacterial agents also into primers and adhesives is that these are the first things that cover the internal surfaces of the tooth cavity and flow into tiny dental tubules inside the tooth," says Xu. The main reason for failures in tooth restorations, says Xu, is secondary caries or decay at the restoration margins. Applying the new primer and adhesive will kill the residual bacteria, he says.
 
 

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