Dentists rely on composite materials to perform restorative procedures, such as filling cavities, but materials are vulnerable to plaque growth. In a study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania evaluated a new dental material tethered with an antimicrobial compound that can not only kill bacteria but can also resist plaque growth. Researchers state that it is effective with minimal toxicity to the surrounding tissue, as it contains a low dose of the antimicrobial agent that kills only the bacteria that come in contact with it.

Geelsu Hwang, research assistant professor in the University said: “Dental biomaterials such as these need to achieve two goals: first, they should kill pathogenic microbes effectively; and, second, they need to withstand severe mechanical stress, as happens when we bite and chew”.

Hwang collaborated on the study, which was published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, with University professor Hyun (Michel) Koo and Bernard Koltisko and Xiaoming Jin of Dentsply Sirona.

The newly developed material is composed of a resin embedded with the antibacterial agent imidazolium. Unlike some traditional biomaterials, which slowly release a drug, this material is non-leachable, thereby only killing microbes that touch it.

Hwang and colleagues tested the material, including its ability to kill microbes, to prevent growth of plaque and to withstand mechanical stress. Their results suggest the material may be effective in killing bacterial cells on contact and severely disrupting the ability of plaque to grow on teeth. The study was funded by Dentsply Sirona.