Biocompatibility of Dental Materials

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Anyone with a dental problem can simply go to a dentist and ask about the dental procedures or treatment that fits him. Patients prescribed for dental appliance installation usually go for durability, comfort and aesthetics.

According to the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, patients have pointed out five key factors in choosing the right dental appliance. These are:

  • Durability- 46%
  • Personal Preference- 22%
  • Aesthetics- 12%
  • Convenience- 10%
  • Biocompatibility- 4%

Given that dentists always want the product to be a comfortable choice that lasts, it is surprising that the most important factor that should be taken seriously is ranked last. Biocompatibility is essential as it ensures patients that the dental appliance of their choice contain non-toxic materials.

There are hundreds of non-toxic materials that can be used in dental procedures, but they can be classified into three types: Metallic, Composite and Ceramic.

Metallic Materials

Amalgam and casting alloys are two of the most common metallic dental materials. Dental amalgams consist of liquid mercury, silver, metal alloy and other trace metals. It is best used as dental fillings for teeth with cavities. Casting alloys are used as a base for ceramic restorations such as crowns and bridges. In the release of other types of dental materials, new dental patients move away from metallic fillings because of its mercury content.

Safer substitutes of these metallic elements are gold and platinum. While pure gold is too soft to become a good alternative to amalgam and casting alloys, it has many properties that make it a better choice. Gold is mixed with other metallic substances to bring out the most favorable properties of other metals. Platinum and gold are often selected for metal fillings since they are resistant to corrosion and shows very little reaction to biocompatibility testing.

Ceramic Materials

Dental patients have become more aesthetically conscious. Apart from its apparent use, choosing the right dental products has also placed a premium on the product’s look.

Ceramic materials look like real tooth and the shade can be adjusted to match the patient’s teeth color, making it practically invisible to other people. Metallic crowns and fillings have lost their appeal with more patients choosing safer and more natural looking alternatives. Although ceramic fillings and crowns still have metallic content, it has been favored because of the absence of controversial elements such as mercury.

Composite Materials

Composite materials are quickly gaining popularity because of their glass-plastic material. It can be easily forged and appear just like a real tooth. It is mixed with quartz, silicon dioxide, and barium glass which prevents the plastic material from shrinking, absorbing water and breaking easily.

While composite materials may be the best option for some dental patients, it is important to remember that composite materials greatly vary depending on the type of procedure the patient needs. The dentist will ultimately decide what type of composite material fits the patient best.

Placement of Dental Materials in the Mouth

Aside from the chemical content of dental appliances, the location of the material inside the mouth also plays a role in its biocompatibility. For example, dental materials placed near the epithelium, or the hollow parts of the mouth cavity, need more scrutiny to determine the body’s reaction toward it.

Similarly, toxicity levels of dental materials placed inside the patient’smouth should be controlled to a minimum, depending on how long the material should stay in the mouth. Biocompatibility testing are more detailed and stringent for appliances which will be utilized for longer periods.

Role of Dentists

The role of dentists in deciding what type of material to use in any dental procedure is indispensable. Initial assessment of the patient’s current dental status is crucial in making other decisions. If a person communicates with his dentist well, he would know that the choice of materials go beyond durability and aesthetics.

Author Bio:

I am Valerie M. Preston, DDS with more than 20 years of experience in the dental industry. I’m an expert in restorative and cosmetic dentistry and a proud member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the American Dental Association and the North Carolina Dental Society. I ownVPreston Dental in Raleigh, NC, a dental clinic known for its spa-like ambiance. For more details, you can check out my website, Facebook and Twitter pages.