The development of polymeric dental composites has revolutionized the field of dentistry over the past 30 years. This development has been achieved mainly through organic monomer discovery, modifications in formulation and filler technology, advances in light curing equipment and efficient photoinitiators. Despite these developmental advances, dental composites are still limited by problems such as polymerization shrinkage and wear resistance. The post-gel polymerization shrinkage causes significant stresses in the surrounding tooth structure and composite tooth bonding leading to premature restoration failure. Other problems such as uncured organic monomers leaching from the dental composites into the surrounding gum tissue have caused cytotoxic effects. With the recent advances in nanotechnology and nanomaterials, it is postulated that mechanical properties and polymerization shrinkage of dental composites can be significantly improved. This review will focus on several recent advances of nanotechnology implementation into dental composites. The technology involved in the development of dental nanocomposites and their enhancement in mechanical properties when compared to the traditional macrofill and microfill composites will be reviewed. Some of our work in the development of low shrinking nanocomposites using functionalized Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxane (POSS) molecule will also be discussed.
Keywords: Nanocomposites, Dental materials, Fillers, Polymerization, POSS, Polymer matrix
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