Choosing the Right Dental Material

Dental materials are used specifically in dental care and the dental industry. There are various types of materials intended for different applications, such as dental restoration and the manufacture of prostheses. This is all part of the study of dental materials. Some are used only by dentists, others only by dental technicians, and others by both. It is important to be familiar with how these materials are classified, their functions and applications, composition, properties, advantages, disadvantages, and possible risks.

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  • What are the different dental materials?

    Dental material can be divided into different categories, including:

    • Metals: This includes “noble” metals (gold, silver, and platinum-group metals) and base metals.
    • Ceramics: Feldspathic ceramics, glass-ceramics, infiltrated ceramics, and polycrystalline ceramics. Subtractive manufacturing allows all types of ceramics to be milled, both for aesthetic and structural rehabilitation, using CAD/CAM systems (computer-aided design and manufacturing software).
    • Resins: Resins are mainly made from PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate). PMMA is obtained through the polymerization of methyl methacrylate monomer.
    • Composites: Composites are mixtures of synthetic materials that acquire a hardness similar to that of a human tooth when exposed to intense light. They are the same color as teeth.
    • Amalgams: Amalgams are made from a mixture of mercury and a metal alloy, usually silver. They have a silvery color.
    • Dental cements: There are various types of dental cements, most of which are made from zinc oxide. Glass ionomer and gutta-percha cements are also available. They are the same color as teeth.
    • Impression materials: These materials are used to take impressions of teeth to make a model. These materials include alginates, plasters, silicones, waxes, and certain dental cements.

    Interdent titanium dental material

    Acteon dental resin

    Vladmiva dental composite

    LASCOD dental cement

    Nordiska Dental dental amalgam

    Materials can also be classified according to the following categories:

    • Material origin: Mineral, organic, or mixed.
    • Soft-tissue contact: Temporary, long-term, or short-term.
  • What are dental materials used for?

    Dental materials are used in virtually every sector of the dental industry, from dental practices to laboratories.

    • Dental laboratories:
  • What are the specific features of the materials commonly used in the dental industry?

    Each type of dental material has its own specific characteristics and offers several advantages and, at times, disadvantages.

    • Metals: These are mainly used in CAD/CAM for manufacturing implants and dental prostheses.
      • Composition: Titanium (Ti) or Cobalt-chromium (CoCr).
      • Advantages: Good biocompatibility and high mechanical strength.
    • Ceramics: These are mainly used in dental restorations, notably for manufacturing crowns.
      • Composition: Zirconia or glass-ceramic.
      • Advantages: Excellent aesthetic properties with a shade and appearance similar to those of natural teeth.
    • Resins: These are commonly used for dental modeling and denture manufacture (not to be confused with composite resins). Depending on the application, there are white, pink, and transparent resins available.
      • Composition: PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate).
      • Advantages: They are easy to handle and very aesthetically pleasing.
      • Disadvantages: They wear and tarnish quickly.
    • Composites (or composite resins): Used in dental restoration, notably for fillings. They have become the alternative of choice to amalgams. They have a wide variety of applications in both anterior and posterior teeth.
      • Composition: There are different types of composite resins, including liquid, universal, self-curing, Bulk Fill, those used for aesthetic treatments, posterior teeth and for orthodontics.
      • Advantages: Composites can be used directly on the tooth. These materials are highly adhesive and highly resistant to wear.
      • Disadvantages: Some may be toxic to the tooth pulp.
    • Amalgams: These are mainly used for permanent fillings, particularly for treating cavities.
      • Composition: Amalgams are composed of mercury and a silver alloy.
      • Advantages: Easy to use, resistant, durable, and inexpensive.
      • Disadvantages: They are considered unattractive due to their silver color, and can potentially present health risks due to the mercury in their composition.
    • Dental cements: Mainly used as a base layer for cavity treatment, as a temporary filling material, or as a bonding agent for dental prostheses (also known as dental glue or adhesive).
      • Composition: Zinc oxide, glass ionomer, or gutta-percha.
      • Advantages: Dental cements are hermetic, analgesic, and antiseptic.
    • Impression materials: Specifically used in restorative dentistry to make dental impressions.
      • Composition: Alginates, plasters, silicones, dental cements (particularly for fixing temporary restorations).
      • Advantages: All these materials offer high dimensional stability, ease of use for the dentist, and good strength and elasticity.
  • What are the main technical characteristics of the materials?

    The main technical characteristics of dental materials are their physical and mechanical properties, biocompatibility, chemical reactivity, and color.

    • Physical characteristics: The opacity and translucency of the material are essential physical characteristics.
    • Mechanical properties: Material strength is the most important mechanical property.
    • Biocompatibility: Biocompatibility is an essential characteristic, as it determines the biological integration of the material used on the patient.
    • Chemical reactivity: This essentially refers to the material’s resistance to corrosion.
    • Colors: Dental materials are available in a variety of colors. They can be tooth-colored for more aesthetically pleasing results, or silver-colored.

    Principal technical characteristics of dental materials:

    • Physical characteristics
    • Mechanical properties
    • Biocompatibility
    • Chemical reactivity
    • Color
  • What are the different forms of dental materials?

    Dental materials come in two main forms: solid and liquid.

    In solid form, they can be found as a paste, powder, disc, or block. Their appearance and color vary depending on the application and the type of material used.

  • Can dental materials be dangerous to health?

    There are several potential risks associated with the use of dental materials, such as:

    • Patient intolerance to dental metals.
    • Galvanic corrosion in the oral cavity.
    • Toxicity of certain chemical compounds: Particularly with mercury, which is used to make dental amalgams. In theory, once mixed with other materials, mercury loses its toxicity due to changes in its chemical nature, rendering it harmless. A great deal of research has been carried out on this topic, but it is still difficult to prove that dental amalgams cause real health problems.
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