Self-Assembling Antimicrobial Materials Prevent Recurrent Caries

Yodit Tedla/Faculty of Dentistry.

Dentistry Today
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Yodit Tedla/Faculty of Dentistry.

When bacteria get under fillings, it can cause new cavities. These recurrent caries affect 100 million patients a year and cost an additional $34 billion to treat, according to the University of Toronto. Now, researchers at the Department of Materials Science & Engineering (MSE), Faculty of Dentistry, and Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering there have found a way to stop these bacteria in their tracks.

Previous research has suggested incorporating antimicrobial drugs in restoration materials. The problem with that approach, though, has been the inability to store enough drugs within the material to last the patient’s entire lifetime. The Toronto researchers, then, have proposed a filling material comprising tiny particles made by self-assembling antimicrobial drugs.

“Adding particles packed with antimicrobial drugs to a filling creates a line of defense against cavity-causing bacteria,” said MSE professor Ben Hatton, PhD, MScE. “But traditionally, there’s only been enough drug to last a few weeks. Through this research, we discovered a combination of drugs and silica glass that organize themselves on a molecule-by-molecule basis to maximize drug density, with enough supply to last years.”

The discovery of self-assembling antimicrobials means the researchers can pack 50 times as much of the bacteria-fighting drugs into the particles. 

“We know very well that bacteria specifically attack the margins between fillings and the remaining tooth to create cavities,” said professor Yoav Finer, DMD, MSc, PhD, of the School of Dentistry. “Giving these materials an antimicrobial supply that will last for years could greatly reduce this problem.”

The researchers plan on testing these drug-storing particles in dental fillings, monitoring their performance when attacked by bacteria and saliva in the complex oral environment. With some fine tuning, they believe, this smart material could create a stronger filling and fewer trips to the dentist. 

The study, “Drug Self-Assembly for Synthesis of Highly-Loaded Antimicrobial Drug-Silica Particles,” was published by Scientific Reports.

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