RESEARCH

UCL partnership ensures fuss-free procedures for younger dental patients

SOURCE: Michael Browning/Unsplash
Current dental filling practice prove to be uncomfortable for young patients.


By U2B Staff 

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The University College London (UCL) Eastman Dental Institute is working with dental material manufacturer Schottlander to develop a new alternative dental filling material to ensure dental procedures on younger patients are fuss-free, quick and cost-effective. 

The material, called SMART composite, is a self-bonding, easy-to-place dental filling material that can restore a tooth to its original appearance, shape and function in just two minutes in a non-invasive procedure. 

The SMART composite was developed in a project led by Professors Anne Young and Paul Ashley and gained funding of £969,582 from the National Institute for Health Research Invention for Innovation (NIHR i4i) Product Development Award.

 This new non-invasive material will replace current dental filling procedures of local anaesthetic injections, drilling and acid etching which can cause discomfort and anxiety among younger patients. 

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According to a report by Open Access Government, children in the UK suffer from dental caries, tooth decay and other complications due to high levels of sugar consumption. 16 percent of three-year-olds and 23 percent of five-year-olds already have dental caries (tooth infections) which require fillings. 

This rate is even higher in countries such as Thailand with high sugar consumption rates among the youth as well as a lack of education on proper dental hygiene which sees a whopping 75 to 80 percent of younger patients with dental problems. 

The rise of dental problems in children combined with the fear of injections and drilling cause more problems for dentists to treat younger patients and creates a demand for fuss-free alternative treatments.

The research efforts of the UCL professors together with Schottlander has resulted in a solution that answers this need. 

dental patients
The new dental filling material is quick and cost-effective. Source: Hike Shaw/Unsplash.

The SMART composite involves no drilling or anaesthetic injections. Dentists only need to gently scrape away the soft dentine, which is the layer of tissue underneath the hard outer enamel of the tooth which is usually eroded in cases of caries or tooth decay. 

The composite material provides a protective barrier over the tooth and helps it to repair decayed surfaces. 

The seemingly quick and painless process has the potential to prevent children from experiencing discomfort and fear of invasive dental treatments. 

The dental procedure involved will also be a more cost-effective and quicker alternative for dentists. 

With the help of the UCL Translational Research Office, the Professors gained the NIHR i4i Product Development Award which aims to support early-stage medical projects such as this one which has a strong potential for commercialisation and serves areas of existing or emerging patient need. 

Thanks to the fund, the project successfully completed the phase one clinical safety trial which was the first in-man study for the project. 

The safety trial involved patients aged six to 16 years old which resulted in favourable outcomes of SMART composite retention with no adverse effects observed. 

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Dental material manufacturer Schottlander joined the project as an industrial partner prior to gaining the i4i award. 

Thanks to an existing relationship with Professor Young, the company agreed to take up a license for some of the professor’s Intellectual Property (IP) which would allow them to take the medical treatment to market once the product is ready. 

“This collaboration is a perfect practical example of the philosophy set out in our mission statement of ‘Improving dentistry together’. Collaborating with the highly talented and motivated team at UCL Eastman Dental Institute has not only benefited the Institute and ourselves but also, and most importantly, the patients who rely on us for their care,” said Schottlander Managing Director Dr Brian Schottlander. 

UCL Eastman has submitted their work on the SMART Composite project through Schottlander to appropriate bodies to get a CE certification mark. 

This will make it easier to pursue further studies for the second phase of testing as well as accelerate the transition process of bringing the novel dental filling material into the commercial market. 

“Translation of our work into the clinic would have been impossible without the continuing and extensive support of Brian Schottlander, his regulatory advisors and company. His keen insight into what is needed has enabled a final product that has the potential to revolutionise restoration of children’s teeth,” said Professor Young. 

This industrial partnership is supported by the UCL Translational Research Office which in partnership with UCL Business (UCLB), actively supports such collaborations between academia and industry which provide real applicable benefits for the health and medical sector. 

According to Open Access Government’s report, partnerships such as this which bring novel medical devices from ideation to clinic can be facilitated through the UCL Therapeutic Innovation Networks (TINs). 

TINs are coordinated expert communities which share their expertise and build external partnerships centred on six therapeutic modalities which are Biologics, Cell, Gene and Regenerative Medicines, Devices, Diagnostics, Repurposing, and Small Molecules. 

UCL continues to work on similar academia-industry collaborative projects to advance medical research to meet patient needs.