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Graphene integrated polymers show promise for clinical prosthetics

05 July 2015

Helping industry unlock graphene’s potential, 2-DTech, in partnership with Evodental, have jointly secured a financial commitment for £150,000 of funding from InnovateUK to carry out investigative work into the utilisation of graphene in the field of dentistry.

The specific aim of this twelve month long project is to explore the possibility of using composites, featuring high grade graphene, to produce fixed dental prostheses with markedly increased longevity and improved clinical function.

There is a pressing need in the dental industry for stronger prosthetic materials that are capable of coping with the elevated mechanical stresses associated with oral functions, such as eating. At the same time biocompatibility must be assured so that the prosthetic is compatible with the organic tissues in contact with it.

Various materials have been investigated, but have fallen short in terms of their fragility, initiation of allergic reactions or their inability to blend harmoniously with surrounding teeth and gums.

Poly-ether-ether-ketone (PEEK) is a material already widely utilised in medical implants due to its biocompatibility; now, through its integration with graphene, it is hoped that this polymer can be optimised for dental use.

2-DTech’s expertise in graphene fabrication and characterisation and Evodental’s knowledge of dental reconstruction technology is currently being put to the test in a joint feasibility study that will examine the properties of PEEK combined with tiny disc-shaped particles of graphene (known as graphene nanoplatelets). It is hoped that this will strengthen the structure of the dental prostheses while still matching the surface properties of the bone accommodating it and teeth around it.

The graphene-reinforced polymer envisaged by 2-DTech and Evodental could mitigate the deficiencies of current fixed dental prostheses, enabling longer working lifespans and leading to a marked reduction in the number of clinical/surgical procedures needed to carry out repairs. The prostheses will benefit from the bio-inert nature of graphene and, since graphene coatings are completely transparent, they will also have no effect on the prostheses’ visual appearance. Evodental managing director, Steve O’Brien takes up the story:

“A major issue when fitting patients with fixed dental prostheses stems from the fact they must be situated within the mouth - which proves to be an extremely demanding location, where exposure to moisture, high temperatures, abrasion from toothbrushes and intake of food all have to be dealt with. As a result there is a considerable risk of mechanical failure.

“To compound matters further, people are living longer, so the period over which these prostheses are in use continues to be stretched. Numerous approaches have been taken to dental prosthetic construction; however, the limitations of existing material technologies have impinged upon their overall success. The lack of robustness will, over time, necessitate remedial work to restore them.

“We believe graphene-reinforced polymers could be the key to major advances in the field of oral rehabilitation and combat some of the complications associated with it.”
2-DTech’s managing director, Nigel Salter believes the combination of extraordinary strength and ultra-thin form means that graphene could be the solution to the problem of coping with the severe operational conditions posed by the human body – and doing so without causing any biochemical interaction with neighbouring tissues.

“Looking to the future, this could be the catalyst for the integration of graphene into a wider array of medical applications such as orthopaedics and implantable electronics,” concludes Mr Salter.

For more information about 2-DTech, click here.

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