The environmental fate of resin-based dental restoratives

Student looks into microscope in lab

Partners (at the University of Sheffield)

School of Clinical Dentistry:

  • Barry Gibson
  • Nicholas Martin
  • Steven Mulligan

Groundwater Protection and Restoration Group:

  • Andrew Fairburn
  • Gabriella Kakonyi
  • Steven Thornton

Outline and objectives of the project

Materials used as dental restoratives have considerably changed during the past decade.

Nowadays resin-based plastic compounds, polymerised and set within the tooth, are encouraged as they are believed to have less of an impact on human health and cosmetically more desirable than amalgam-type fillings.

With the progression of new materials being used we must look at how they may affect the surrounding environment – inside and outside the human body.

We know that these restorative materials contain organic chemicals, which if leached could reach critical levels that may present a health risk.

This will therefore determine and quantify the potential release of these organic compounds in dental restoratives to the environment through various routes (chemical analysis study).

It will also investigate the views and perceptions of society and the dental profession to these materials as potential environmental pollutants (sociology study).

The potential routes to release of these organic chemicals to the environment are considered to be

  • the manufacturing process of resin-based dental restoratives
  • waste disposal into landfill sites
  • direct exposure into water ways from human waste
  • CAD-CAM milling of composite blocks 
  • burial of cremated bodies containing these dental restoratives

The outcome of the project is a risk assessment of potential environmental pollutants arising from resin-based dental restoratives, which provides more thorough knowledge base and awareness for sustainable decision making.

Funding body

The Shirly Glasstone Hughes Trust Fund, British Dental Association

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