The NASA Technology that Goes in Your Mouth

It’s been in use since the 1980s, but most people never knew, that the bonding agents used for braces and porcelain veneers and a variety of other dental purposes was actually derived from NASA research developing porcelain tiles that were fused to the metal heat shield of the Apollo space capsule. Dr. Jim Erpenbach is a dentist who specializes in fitting patients with veneers and other dental restorations.

The team at NASA was tasked with creating a thermal protection system to prevent the 1650⁰C atmospheric re-entry heat from destroying space craft that were returning to earth. They developed an alloy called Tilite that was capable of absorbing heat at the same rate as ceramic tiles it was used to mount on the space shuttle, while at the same time eliminating the stress and strain of the porcelain against metal.

Once created, scientists began looking at other uses for Tilite as a bonding agent, and in 1986 it was approved by the FDA for use with dental restorations. Cosmetic dentists found it to be an excellent bonding agent for porcelain veneers, bridges and fillings because it was beyond capable of handling the environmental forces at work in the human mouth from the exertion of bite force to changes in temperature related to the consumption of hot and cold beverages and variation of balance in moisture and acid content in saliva.

To learn more about dental bondings, or to request a consultation about veneers or other dental restorations, contact our office at 865-584-8630.