Right now, dental restorations use the strongest, most effective materials to keep your mouth healthy. Even these durable materials break sometimes. To continue improving the effectiveness of dental restorations, we are always looking for new materials that have both the desired durability and the attractiveness necessary for cosmetic dentistry.
A recent discovery has pointed researchers back to where dental restoration work first began: shells and animal teeth. The limpet, a type of mollusk, was found in a recent study to have exceptionally strong teeth.
Limpets are small mollusks that feed on algae growing on rocks. In order to feed, the limpet attaches itself to the rock and slowly drags its radula (tongue) across the rock, scraping off the algae. The radula is covered in hundreds of minuscule teeth that help to scrape food from the rock’s surface. They can clear an entire blanket of algae in very little time, leaving only the unreachable algae growing on their backs. Their grazing is so efficient that they even scrape off some of the rock, leaving etched rings behind when they move on.
In a recent study, researchers from the University of Portsmouth have discovered that limpet teeth are composed of the strongest biological material ever tested. The team tested the tooth material using atomic force microscopy, a method used to examine materials all the way down to the atomic level. The team discovered that a mineral called goethite was responsible for the strength of the teeth. The sample studied was 100 times thinner than a human hair, and they rated the strength of the sample at about 745,000 pounds per square inch–five times as strong as most spider silk. An exotic spider, though, had a silk which had a strength of about 645,000 psi which had previously held the record as the strongest natural material. The limpet tooth strength is the equivalent of a strand of spaghetti being able to support 3000 pounds (test your spaghetti at home to get an idea of just how remarkable that is). The material is stronger than most Kevlar used in bulletproof vests today.
When people use effective designs in nature to improve their creations, it is called bioinspiration. The discovery of the strength of limpet teeth has inspired researchers to see what they can do with this new material. Unlike other composites, the fibrous structure found in limpet teeth does not seem to have more flaws in it when made larger. Flaws create weakness, and many carbon composites are difficult to make large enough to use without creating too many flaws. The fibers from limpet teeth may therefore help create advancements in Kevlar, airplane bodies, and even dental work.
In dental research, there is an ongoing quest to create stronger materials for dental fillings. Today, composite materials and amalgam (a combination of metal alloys) are used, and show significantly more strength than their predecessors. Unfortunately, despite their superior strength, even these materials can crack, chip, or break under certain conditions. A composite material created using the goethite found in limpet teeth may help to solve the problem, offering dentists a stronger material that can hold up to sports collisions, hard candy, and tooth grinding.
No matter how exciting the prospect is, waiting to care for your own dental restorations until mollusk tooth composite is available is not a wise decision. Like many new discoveries, it will likely take a long time for researchers to successfully develop a usable material. The composite material used for fillings is significantly stronger than composites in the past, and we have attractive restoration options that can handle most anything your natural teeth can take, and often more.
Filling a cavity before it becomes a problem is important for your oral health. To learn more about protecting your oral health by filling cavities, please call 509-368-7788 for an appointment at Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics in Spokane.
Or office in Spokane is located at:
3151 E. 28th Ave.
Spokane, WA 99223
Office phone # 509-368-7788