Dental researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry have identified a natural compound found in grape seed extract to be a possible way to strengthen teeth and give extra support to a dental filling.
The study examined this compound’s ability to strengthen dentin, the tissue that lies below the hard, outer, bone-like tooth enamel.
Researchers on the project sought to solve the common problem of filling or restoration failure. Dental fillings, whether made of mercury amalgam or composite materials, eventually begin to weaken and break down.
Mercury amalgam fillings are estimated to last on average 12.8 years, and composite resin fillings last on average 7.8 years.
It is important that composite resins should bond with the dentin of the tooth to create a good seal to prevent bacteria from leaking underneath the restoration and causing further decay.
When there is no good bond between the restoration and the tooth, patients face root canal procedures, which come with many complications.”Further decay weakens the entire restoration and puts patients at risk for losing their tooth entirely,” Dr. James Erpenbach, D.D.S., said.
Erpenbach is a dentist in Knoxville, Tennessee,. He practices biomimetic dentistry, a dental specialty that uses lifelike materials to restore teeth and treat tooth decay. These materials bond tightly to the teeth, sealing out bacteria that cause decay.
Biomimetic fillings also last a long time compared to composite resin or mercury amalgam fillings.”Some patients with biomimetic fillings have had them for over a decade or more, and they are still going strong,” Erpenbach said.
To facilitate a strong bond between the tooth and the composite resin material used for the filling, the study’s lead researchers used the grape seed extract to evoke a repair response in the tooth’s dentin. The grape seed extract was chosen because of the high number of oligomeric proanthocyanidins, or OPCs, a type of flavonoid that encourages collagen production.
Flavonoids are powerful plant-based compounds said to have anti-inflammatory and immune system boosting benefits. Dentin is primarily made up of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body.
When the dentin is healed, the composite can bond tightly to the tooth and seal out decay. This leads to a successful, long-lasting restoration for the patient and helps to ensure the tooth’s survival.
This new finding may also help allow dentists to remove less of the tooth than traditional filling methods- a potential benefit that is exciting to Erpenbach. As a biomimetic dentist, he is focused on preserving the teeth versus the restoration of teeth. This means treating tooth decay in a way that allows the patient to retain as much of the tooth as possible.
In many traditional dental offices, when a patient develops a cavity, the dentist drills the cavity hole a little larger and fills in space with a filling- amalgam or resin. This weakens the tooth structure and eventually causes it to collapse around the filling, which also leads to tooth loss.
Mercury amalgam fillings have their share of issues, too. They are unable to bond with the teeth, and this inability to create a tight seal between the dentin and the filling allows bacteria to get underneath the filling. This bacteria causes further decay and infection of the pulp, leaving patients in pain and at risk of a root canal.
Mercury amalgam and composite fillings also put uneven pressure on the surrounding enamel when the patient chews or bites down. This uneven pressure can cause cracks and fractures of the enamel over time, and the tooth can fall down around the restoration.
“Building the tooth back up from within will allow the tooth to remain intact,” Erpenbach said.