Nanocrystals Make Dentures Shine

Foto: Workers at a smelting furnace

After all, these are worn as much as healthy teeth. Ceramic materials used so far are not very suitable for bridges, as their strengths are mostly not high enough. Now Rüssel and his colleagues of the Otto-Schott-Institute for Glass Chemistry succeeded in producing a new kind of glass ceramic with a nanocrystalline structure, which seems to be well suited to be used in dentistry due to their high strength and its optical characteristics.

Glass-ceramics on the basis of magnesium-, aluminium-, and silicon oxide are distinguished by their enormous strength. “We achieve a strength five times higher than with comparable denture ceramics available today”, Rüssel explains. The Jena glass chemists have been working for a while on high density ceramics, but so far only for utilisation in other fields, for instance as the basis of new efficient computer hard drives. “In combination with new optical characteristics an additional field of application is opening up for these materials in dentistry“, Rüssel is convinced.

Materials, to be considered as dentures are not supposed to be optically different from natural teeth. At the same time not only the right colour shade is important. “The enamel is partly translucent, which the ceramic is also supposed to be“, Rüssel says.

To achieve these characteristics, the glass-ceramics are produced according to an exactly specified temperature scheme: First of all the basic materials are melted at about 1.500 degrees Celsius, then cooled down and finely cut up. Then the glass is melted again and cooled down again. Finally, nanocrystals are generated by controlled heating to about 1,000 degrees Celsius. “This procedure determines the crystallisation crucial for the strength of the product“, the glass chemist Rüssel explains. But this was a technical tightrope walk. Because a too strongly crystallised material disperses the light, becomes opaque and looks like plaster. The secret of the Jena glass ceramic lies in its consistence of nanocrystals. The size of these is at most 100 nanometres in general. “They are too small to strongly disperse light and therefore the ceramic looks translucent, like a natural tooth“, the scientist says.; Source: Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena