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A Bio-Inspired Tooth That’s Tough to Crack

Taking inspiration from mussels, researchers develop a new dental restoration composite.

Mary Bates, Contributor
Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Dental restorations typically only last five to 10 years before needing replacements. But a new type of dental composite, inspired by the toughness and clinginess of mussels, could be more durable and less likely to crack than conventional material, according to a new study in the journal Advanced Materials.

Mussels have evolved to adhere to irregular, rocky surfaces in the intertidal zone, where they must endure pounding waves, hot sun, wind and cycles of immersion in salt water. Their iron grip is due to properties of their byssal threads, fibers from their feet that anchor them to rocks. These threads are rich in chemical groups called catechols that prime and promote adhesion to wet mineral surfaces.

The new proof-of-concept study shows that using a catecholic coupling agent provides 10 times more adhesion and a 50 percent increase in toughness over current dental restorative resin composites.

This study is one of the first to demonstrate this toughening mechanism on rigid and load-bearing materials, similar to human teeth.

According to the researchers, the new material could create tougher, more durable dental fillings. In the long run, this could lead to fewer dental visits, prevention of tooth loss and better overall health.

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