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Root Canal Treatment Case Study

Thousands of people are benefitting from the latest technology in root canal fillings, thanks to a nanotechnology and engineering collaboration between the University of Bradford and dental products company, DRFP.

Case Study

DRFP wanted to find a modern replacement for the traditional natural rubber fillers, shaped like a tooth pick, which are pressed into place to fill root canal cavities. As the rubber doesn’t always fill the area completely, DRFP came up with the concept of the ‘smartseal’ system: using a bespoke polymer core, to which a coating could be applied that would expand on contact with water until all of the cavity was filled.

Because the polymer had to show up on x-ray, it needed to contain a ceramic powder, but this then made it difficult to produce to the small sizes required by dental practitioners and hard to ensure consistency in the production.

DRFP were struggling to find anyone to help them with this technology, until they contacted the Centre for Micro and Nano Moulding at the University of Bradford.

“Because the ceramic powder turned the polymer from a liquid to a paste, it stopped flowing evenly,” says Technical Manager, Dr Ben Whiteside. “The powder’s particle size needed to be correct for the polymer mixture to flow properly and we had the nanotechnology expertise to get it right.”

The University also worked with DRFP to develop the correct injection tool to ensure the moulding process worked in full scale manufacturing.

“It required very specialised injection moulding techniques,” said DRFP Operations Manager, Dr Paul Holden. “Dr Whiteside’s team were able to develop a technique that could reliably create the right geometry for the core and ensure they had the correct mechanical properties.”

Smartseal began manufacture in Sheffield in 2007 and has been used successfully by dentists all over the country. The relationship between the company and University is still going strong, with R&D staff from DRFP regularly using the equipment in the Centre for Micro and Nano Moulding to further refine their product.

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