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Development of a new Dental Ceramic at Sheffield

During the research, the material was found to be comparable to commercial materials, including strength, toughness, durability, and the strength of resin bonding to underlying tooth (dentine) material.

On seeing these results, it was clear to Ric van Noort, Professor of Dental Materials Science, that the new material had the potential to rival the commercial dental ceramics currently available on the market. He recalled, “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 6000 ug/cm to one with a solubility of less than 1000 ug/cm2 was a major achievement.”

After achieving this technical success and proving that the material could be milled on a laboratory scale, the next challenge was to identify a suitable route to market.

Working with Fusion IP, the AIM-listed company that works with Sheffield to commercialise intellectual property, the research team secured funding from the Yorkshire Proof of Commercial Concept Fund to further develop the ceramic and a patent application was filed in June 2008 to protect the invention. Fusion then undertook detailed assessments of the dental materials market and supply chain to ascertain the best route to market for the technology.

So great was the interest in the materials improved properties that demand for evaluation of the new composition quickly grew. Several months of testing then followed, during which time the University laboratory became a small production facility, manufacturing and shipping samples of the new material to locations across Europe.

Initial feedback from potential licensees has been extremely encouraging. The aesthetic properties of the new material have been particularly well received, and industry partners have provided direct feedback on how the material could be improved to align with their manufacturing processes. The team commercialising fluorcanasite received a further boost in January 2011 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the material for marketing in the US.

A bright future

Andrew Tingey, Portfolio Licensing Manager for Fusion IP said, “We are extremely encouraged by the level of industry interest that we have had in this material, and that we have been successful in obtaining FDA approval for it. We think that fluorcanasite has the potential to be a real commercial success story.”

The technical team has embarked on another round of technical development of fluorcanasite, to perfect the manufacturing process and balance the materials aesthetic and physical properties. The future for fluorcanasite as a dental material looks very bright.

This article is an edited version of a longer article available in Med-Tech Innovation magazine.

For more information relating to this story or our expertise in Dental Materials, please contact James Lapworth from the Gateway team james.lapworth@sheffield.ac.uk