Graphene could be modified and found in a wide range of dental applications.
Some of the earliest dental fillings discovered in Slovenia date back almost 7,000 years, and evidence of a pierced abscess at the root of a tooth has been found in a skull dating back to 2,500 BC. Details of dental practices have also been found in ancient Sumerian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese texts.
Like the origins of many medical fields, early dentistry consists of brutal and invasive procedures that were often as bad as the ailments they sought to cure. Fortunately, dental techniques have come a long way since prehistoric times, especially in recent decades.
As techniques have taken a huge leap forward, so have the materials used in dentistry. While the Slovenian dental filling dating from around 5000 BC. These were eventually replaced by amalgams made up of these metals and mercury, the latter eventually being replaced due to health concerns.
Currently, dental patients who do not want amalgam fillings have a choice of gold, porcelain, and a composite filling made of acrylic resin and powdered glass to fill in the gaps in their smiles resulting from dental defects. Such materials can also be used as false teeth when the cavities become severe enough to lead to tooth loss.
While these materials have clearly come in leaps and bounds since beeswax, there is still a lingering problem that materials scientists and dentists would like to address. As advanced as these materials are, they can often appear somewhat artificial and fail to maintain the biological and mechanical properties of real tissue.
And this question goes beyond the aesthetic and the sensory, the success of many modern treatments can be boosted by the addition of regenerative tissue and tissue engineering, especially where injury or disease has caused damage. bone damage or degeneration. These techniques require a material scaffolding with properties corresponding to those of natural fabrics.
A new review article published in the journal Smart materials in medicine¹ suggests that graphene oxide is a promising material for a wide range of dental uses, including as a scaffold for tissue regeneration. In defending the material, the authors also highlight how graphene oxide dental technology can move from the lab to the clinic.
Why graphene oxide?
Since it was first isolated in 2004, graphene has found its way into a wide range of technological applications, including electronics, battery production, and medicine. This is due to the unique electronic and chemical properties of graphene, its strength and lightness.
It is not surprising to see dentistry become involved in the action of graphene, but meeting the needs of dental patients requires modifying this wonderful material. Materials scientists did this by adding hydroxyl, epoxy, carboxyl, and carbonyl groups creating a derivative of graphene called graphene oxide.
Although this modification damages the honeycomb structure of graphene, it also gives graphene oxide nanosheets improved chemical stability and water solubility. The result is a material with many properties that make it ideal for dentistry.
Chief among these are the antibacterial properties which give graphene oxide an advantage over conventional dental implants which undergo antibacterial surface modifications or regular cleaning.
There is another benefit that graphene oxide can bring to dentistry as well. Thanks to its large surface area, a graphene oxide nanosheet can be loaded with molecules that can be gradually released. This means that the material has the potential for targeted and timed in situ drug delivery.
What future for graphene oxide and dentistry?
The authors of this review article highlighted a multitude of potential dental uses, including:
- Antibacterial coating for titanium bone implants
- Antibacterial cleaning by absorption of light radiation and emission in the form of heat
- Coating on modifying scaffolds promoting cell adhesion and growth
- In implants that promote bone growth and stem cell differentiation
- As an additive to adhesives to increase durability
Many of the above applications are already supported by extensive experimental testing, but the final leap from the lab to the patient remains to be made. Initial results are positive, however, the authors point out that graphene oxide coatings for implants and scaffolds have already been shown to promote bone formation.
The integration of graphene oxide into scaffolds may require further exploration as there is currently no chemical structure for the prepared graphene oxide. Researchers will need to assess the differences between laboratory and clinical use.
Beyond these clinical tests, the authors also suggest that graphene oxide may benefit dentistry more in the future by facilitating the delivery of loaded genes into its nanosheets for improved tissue engineering.
“The development of GO is an exciting and promising material with the potential to revolutionize clinical practice, which remains to be further explored” the researchers conclude.
Jiang. X., Qi. Y., Jiang. F., Zhou., et al, , ‘Graphene oxide as a promising material in dentistry and tissue regeneration: a review,’ Intelligent materials in medicine, [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smaim.2021.08.001]