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Developing a new dental ceramic


People want better, longer-lasting, more natural crowns and bridges for their teeth. This demand has been driving research and product development in dental materials, particularly ceramics. A new ceramic material developed at the University that is now commercially available looks good, lasts, and withstands rapid CAD/CAM processing techniques in manufacture.

The challenge

To meet the changing demands of the market, work in the School of Clinical Dentistry has been exploring the production of a durable new formulation of a material called fluorcanasite. The new formulation was found to be comparable with existing commercial materials, having similar toughness, durability, and strength of resin bonding to the underlying tooth (dentine).

When research uncovered these properties, it was clear to Ric van Noort, Professor of Dental Materials Science, that the new material had the potential to rival the dental ceramics currently available on the market. He recalls, “I think many members of the dental materials research community thought what we tried to do could not be done. To produce a fluorcanasite glass-ceramic that had a chemical solubility reduced from in excess of 6000µg/cm2 to one with a solubility of less than 1000µg/cm2 was a major achievement.”

Commercialising the research

However this technical success and ability to mill the material on a laboratory scale was just the beginning of developing a saleable product. A suitable route to market had to be identified. With the support of Fusion IP, the AIM-listed company that works with the University to commercialise intellectual property, the research team secured funding from the Yorkshire Proof of Commercial Concept Fund. This meant they could further develop the ceramic and file a patent application in June 2008 to protect the invention.

While Fusion made detailed assessments of the dental materials market and supply chain, the research team had to work hard to satisfy interest in the material’s improved properties. Demand for evaluation of the new composition was so strong that the University laboratory became a small production facility, manufacturing and shipping samples to locations across Europe for testing. Feedback from industry partners and potential licensees resulted in further refinements, ensuring that the material could be used in existing manufacturing processes. In January 2011 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the material for marketing in the US.

Andrew Tingey, Portfolio Licensing Manager for Fusion IP, said, “We were extremely encouraged by the level of industry interest that we had in this material. We saw the potential for a real commercial success story in fluorcanasite.”

An available product

Fusion IP are now in negotiation with several multinational dental ceramics manufacturers and distributers to take this product to market.