Fourth-year students from the University of Saskatchewan, Anapaula Campos, Kellyana Quattrini and Jenna Schmitt, have been working on a novel amalgam since their first year in the college. This research project replaces the mercury found in traditional amalgams with a silver solution and ceramic nanoparticles.

With the help Dr. Azita Zerehgar, assistant professor of pediatric dentistry, and Assem Hedayat, assistant professor of dental materials, the group pushed forward to find a material that was long lasting and had amalgam’s strength, but was mercury free.

Campos, Quattrini and Schmitt conducted a literature review and used Hedayat’s expertise in materials science to propose potential mercury replacements.

“We helped him figure out what kind of material we needed and he came back to us with a silver solution and ceramic nanoparticles. We then had to figure out what the right mixture and consistency were that would work for a filling,”  Campos told Kris Foster at University of Saskatchewan News.

With that determined, the group went to the college’s tooth bank for testing.

And test they did. Once filled, the teeth were “thermally cycled” to simulate the oral environment, explained Campos. (In layman’s terms —  they were repeatedly immersed in hot and cold water.

“The cross section image showed that the (new) material was a closer fit in the filling. There were no gaps showing between the fillings and the teeth, compared to traditional amalgam, which does show gaps along the margin of the filling,” said Campos.

Onto the college’s research competition, which they won. Next: the national dental college competition in Vancouver.

The new material, Campos explained, still has to go through a number of tests before becoming a viable commercial option, but the group agreed that being exposed to the research side in a practice-based college was invaluable.

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