In Germany, children especially take brushing their teeth twice a day, as recommended by dentists, very seriously indeed. The consequence of this is that nowadays 80% of 12-year old children have absolutely no tooth decay – twice as many as 20 years ago. This was the result of the fifth German oral health study, which the German Dental Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Dentists presented at the end of 2016. These days, adults and older people also have healthier and more of their own teeth than in the past. However, despite better cleaning habits and timely prophylaxis, at some time or other most people have to grit their teeth and visit a dentist. It’s a good thing that dentists not only have modern tools and technology to work with, but also materials that correspond to natural teeth in terms of function and appearance.
Advantages over conventional dentures
Currently, one of the materials in high demand on the market is the high-performance polymer VESTAKEEP® Dental from Evonik. “Our material is stable and also as elastic as human bone,” says Frank Claus, Business Manager in Evonik’s Medical Device & Systems market segment. In the oral cavity, the material also has other advantages over conventional dentures: dental prostheses made from polyether ether ketone (PEEK) are lighter and more flexible as well as being allergy-free and taste-neutral. And they quickly adjust to the body’s temperature. They also deliver better results than conventional replacement parts made from metal during x-rays.
Although VESTAKEEP® Dental offers many benefits compared to alternative materials, such as zirconium dioxide, gold or cobalt-chromium for dentures, “the material requires sure instincts and precision from the dental technician,” says Ismail Yilmaz. The managing director of Denseo GmbH should know. After all, he not only trains dental technicians how to use the high-performance polymer and the most suitable tools and polishing materials every 14 days, the specialist dealer for dental products is also a long-term partner of Evonik. At Evonik in Wörth (Germany), the granulated polyether ether ketone (PEEK) is melted and compressed into rods, in some cases, under clean room conditions. This process is called extrusion. The rods are then cut into cylindrical plates and are approved by Denseo as a medical product. Among other things, the approval process includes proof of biocompatibility and suitable mechanical properties. Clinical trials and tested operating procedures are also part of the process.
Partnership between Evonik and Denseo
Yilmaz supplies his customers – prosthetic dentistry laboratories and milling centers - with VESTAKEEP® Dental milling blanks in four variants: one that is suitable for allergy sufferers, a gum colored one, and two more in different tooth colors. This range alone reflects the benefits of the partnership between Denseo and Evonik. “From Denseo we find out first-hand what dental technicians and dentists want,” says Claus. This could be materials in new colors or also more rigid PEEK for multi- unit bridges. Sales growth of more than 50 percent since 2014 is evidence of the market success of VESTAKEEP® Dental.
Partners such as Denseo and Evonik benefit not only from the outstanding material properties, technological progress also plays a role. Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) is the keyword here. If a patient needs a crown for a tooth stump, the dentist makes a mold of the teeth. The plaster model cast from this is then scanned. A laser beam scans the gap that is to be filled from all sides. A computer calculates exactly what the crown must look like. The data is then sent to the dental laboratory, where a dental technician inserts the VESTAKEEP® blank into the milling machine where tiny milling heads eat away at the blank until the crown is ready.
German patients spend about €5 billion each year for bridges, crowns, and implants. Many of them have to pay a considerable amount out of their own pockets. Statutory health insurance funds pay only part of the costs, even for the less expensive, non- precious metal alloys. The high-performance polymer from Evonik is a high-quality alternative to non-precious metal alloys for inlays, bridges, crowns, and implants that replace healthy teeth in part or completely should this become necessary.