Dental prosthetics need to look natural. They also need to be strong. And, patients prefer quick turnaround while they’re being milled and inserted. Bernhard Durschang and Jörn Probst of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC have received the Fraunhofer Human-Centered Technology prize for their efforts in developing a material that meets these demands.
“At more than 500 MPa, our glass ceramic is much stronger and more robust than conventional glass ceramics, which only reach around 350 MPa,” said Probst, who has been responsible for the health application area at Fraunhofer ISC since 2002.
“In addition, post-curing in the furnace is no longer necessary. And, glass ceramics in all different color nuances with their enamel-like translucency have an excellent visual appearance. The prosthesis can be optimally chosen according to the patient’s tooth color and looks completely natural,” said Probst.
Glass ceramics consist of an amorphous glassy phase and a crystalline portion that provides prosthetics with their strength. Previous researchers have tried to push the proportion of the crystalline phase as high as possible, with many believing the material has reached its maximum potential.
“Instead, we have turned to the properties of the glass phase and thus achieved something amazing,” said Durschang, who has been developing glasses and glass ceramics at Fraunhofer ISC since 1996.
“Adding various metal oxides to the amorphous portion increases its strength. Thus, the amorphous portion of the unpleasant residual glass that one wants to get rid of is transformed into a useful portion that even increases the overall strength,” said Durschang.
The researchers developed the glass ceramic in partnership with VITA Zahnfabrik H. Rauter GmbH & Co KG and DeguDent GmbH, which are already producing the material with annual revenues in the double-digit million range. The researchers also predict annual growth rates of around 20% for the material in the coming years.