This particular glass product, developed by a group of scientists from the Queen Mary University of London, is unique because it possesses “bioactive” properties that can repair decayed teeth.
Bioactive is an adjective that is often associated with glass, a material that is usually regarded to be chemically stable and inert. This type of glass, however, is different from the glass used for windows or wine glasses.
Bioactive glass products are unique types of glass powder containing phosphate and calcium that hardens into a glass when it comes into contact with a particular ionomer, usually polyalkenoic acid.
Once bioactive glass products are in the mouth, the body recognizes their presence and starts reacting to them. The reaction of the body to the bioactive glass triggers the release of tooth-strengthening agents.
The bioactive glass product created by the QMU researchers also contains chloride, a substance that helps to remineralize and desensitize teeth that have been weakened by decay-causing bacteria.
The researchers chose chloride because the chlorine atom and its ions are larger than the atom and ions of another common tooth-remineralizing agent, fluoride.
Larger atoms and ions mean that more of the chloride goes into the product, giving it a greater ability to strengthen and repair the teeth.
The British researchers are not new to the bioactive glass business. Their earlier products include a glass filling material, as well as a toothpaste that slowly releases fluoride over time to strengthen teeth damaged by tooth decay.
The researchers have also formed a spin-off company, BioMin Technlogies Ltd., to develop and produce their bioactive toothpaste.
The QMU researchers hope that their new chloride toothpaste provides an alternative for people who do not want to use products that contain fluoride or for those who do not have access to fluoridated water.
Bioactive glass products have been used for years in other medical applications, such as healing broken or weakened bones, but are just now becoming more mainstream in dentistry. Their popularity is increasing because they are very similar in chemical structure to tooth enamel.
Their similar structure allows them to bond tightly with tooth enamel, giving them an advantage over other types of restorative materials, like metal amalgam, resin or composites.
Amalgam and other filling materials vary in the degree to which they are able to bond with the tooth enamel; some do not bond with the enamel at all.
The inability to bond with teeth can cause damage to the restoration over time through wear and tear. Teeth can also become damaged due to stress caused by restorations that do not adequately bond with the teeth.
“Using restorations that form a tight bond with the tooth is critical for both longevity of the restoration and the health of the tooth,” said Stefania Caracioni, D.D.S., L.V.I.F.
Caracioni practices dentistry in Topeka, Kansas.
Benefits of Good Bonds
When a filling or other type of restoration does not tightly bond with the tooth enamel, bacteria that cause tooth decay can leak underneath the restoration and cause further damage.
“Decay that occurs underneath a restoration is not always noticeable to the patient — until it becomes painful,” Caracioni said.
Bacteria do not just damage the teeth; they can also damage restorations.
“Some forms of bacteria can attack and weaken fillings and other types of dental restorations over time, which means patients often require replacement restorations after a few years,” Caracioni said.
Bioactive glass products can help to reduce bacteria that attack restorations by slowly releasing antibacterial agents over time.
“Reducing bacteria in the mouth can help prolong the life of dental restorations,” Caracioni said.
Queen Mary University of London. “New ‘bioactive’ glass puts minerals back into damaged teeth.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2017.