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Digital Dentistry: The Science Behind Dental Polymers

Dread the dentist? You’re not alone. Many of us share that same sentiment. We dread the sounds, smells, and potential for discomfort every time we’re in that dentist chair.

We’ve come a long way from the days of historic dentistry–advances made possible by many of the cutting edge polymers we enjoy analyzing and testing here at SGS PSI!

Dental appliances have been made from a long list of materials, some stranger than others. Early American presidents had replacement teeth made of wood and animal teeth. Eventually, metals were used– often an amalgam of liquid (elemental) mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper.

Implants have been made of metals like titanium, with varying success. Today, some modern advancements have made it possible for polymers to be used for these dental products.

Have you heard of 3-D printing? “Additive manufacturing” as it’s known more broadly, has transformed many industries that use traditional technologies like casting. Today, dental products can be manufactured using additive techniques with the level of precision that’s necessary for dentistry.

These dental products replace human teeth for some of the reasons implants have for decades: decay, degradation over time, sports injuries, and accidents. The teeth, made of a mix of polymers, attach to a “denture base” and allow patients to regain their bite surface, cosmetic look, and quality-of-life that can all be lacking when faced with dental problems.

We currently perform testing for suppliers of dental products manufactured using state-of-the-art additive techniques. These digital dentistry products are made from the same polymers we frequently see for a number of everyday products: poly(acrylic esters), poly(vinyl esters), polystyrene, and polycarbonates, just to name a few.

Just like many medical devices, companies that create these dental products need to assure that they are compliant with FDA standards to ensure they are safe and ready for use in human subjects.

We often test dental polymer products in accordance with  the following standards:

  • ISO 20795-1, Dentistry – Base Polymers – Part 1: Denture Base Polymers
  • ISO 20795-2, Dentistry – Base Polymers – Part 2: Orthodontic Base Polymers
  • ISO 22112, Dentistry – Artificial Teeth for Dental Prostheses
  • ANSI/ADA Standard No. 139, Dental Base Polymers

The dental polymers are required to have specific surface characteristics that must be safe, durable, and cosmetically correct for the application. We test dental polymers for color, porosity, strength, stiffness, fracture characteristics, polishability, limits on residual monomer and plasticizer, and water sorption and solubility limitations. Our decades of experience with independent polymer testing make SGS PSI a natural fit for this important testing.

Additive manufacturing is an amazing technology that has transformed industries, from dentistry to automotive manufacturing. As techniques, precision, and cost-effectiveness improve, we’re only going to see these techniques employed more and more in products created for patients. From teeth to the potential for other vital parts of the human body, like organs and bones, these innovations are transforming how medicine is able to safely improve quality of life for people.

Polymer chemistry coupled with the chemical analysis and physical testing we perform here at SGS PSI will continue to be vital for the companies we work with everyday. If you’re looking for dental polymer testing, get in touch today!