Wednesday, May 26, 2021

EmsiSoft Volunteers Free Decryption Help to Irish Health Service


For the past 2 or 3 years now, I've been using Emsisoft to protect my office from cyberthreats.  

Lego Announces "World Map" Set with Most Pieces in History


Who doesn't love Lego?  The company is a juggernaut of creativity with sets that celebrate movies, comic books, and other cool topics such as Star Wars.  In fact, last year the company released a Millennium Falcon™ model that has 7541 pieces and retails for $799.99

The Falcon model was a huge hit and, in fact, remains so popular that as of this post it is sold out on the Lego website.  

Now comes word from Lego that they have released a new model that has the most pieces in the company's long and amazing history.  The World Map with 11, 695 bricks will be available on June 1 for a retail price of $249.

This is the *largest* Lego set ever created.  I don't even want to think about how long it would take to assemble 11,695 bricks... but I'd like to try.  The set also comes with pins to allow you to mark places that you have visited, which is a neat idea.  I have a map on the wall of my home where I've got push pins marking all the places I've been lucky enough to visit during my time teaching and lecturing.  It's kind of fun to look at from time to time and remember different cities I've been in.

I think a Lego map is way cooler than what I currently have.  I may have to invest in one of these.

If, like me, you're interested in owning one, head on over to Lego and put your order in.  

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Practice Ownership by Young Dentists Continues to Decline


For the second day in a row, we've got a post dealing with the ADA's Health Policy Institute and some of the pretty incredible data they've analyzed.

It's no secret in the industry that the influx and influence of corporate dentistry has grown tremendously in the last 20 or so years.  It's also a well known fact that the average debt of a student graduating from dental school is over $275K.  

Even if you are not in the profession, I'm sure you can appreciate what it must be like to graduate with debt approaching $300,000 and then needing to go to a bank to borrow even more money in order to open a practice.  Even though many banks consider dentistry a good risk and are wiling to lend young practitioners the money needed to start a practice from scratch, the stress of that much debt often frightens young graduates and they look for opportunities other than starting from scratch.

For many of those dentists their only choice is to become an employee of a corporate dental chain in order to try and service their student loan debt.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, this is a double edged sword.  The plus is that they can earn a decent living and also be able to pay down their student loans.  The minus is that they become used to a decent living and the prospect of leaving that comfortable existence to strike out on your own while also taking a pay cut for a bit while you build your practice can be pretty disconcerting.  Many end up staying even though their original plan may have been to own their own office after effectively paying down their student loans.

This is borne out by the data from a recent analysis from the ADA HPI.  According to the recent findings, the number of dentists that own their own practice has declined over the past 20 years and continues to do so.  

The numbers are interesting, to say the least.  For instance, in 2005 49% of dentists younger than 35 years of age owned their own practice whereas in 2019 that number was 30.7%.  That's a decrease of 18.3% which is pretty stunning to me.

The American Dental Association provides a ton of great support for the profession and the HPI is just one small part of that.  This is just one of the many reasons I'm a huge supporter of the ADA.

The numbers are laid out in a really nice graphic available to view or download.  Follow this link.  As with most things from the ADA, you will most likely need your ADA login info to access it.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Number of Practicing Dentists Will Grow by 10% by 2040 According to Projections

 It's amazing how things cycle in life and society.  When I was in dental school in the 1980s, the number of dentists in the U.S. had been growing for several years and there was concern that the profession might soon be overpopulated.  Obviously if there were too many dentists, the ability to make a living becomes much more difficult.  For years U.S. dental schools were graduating lots of dentists, but the population was also increasing at a comparable rate.

However, by the 1980s things started to change.  To keep the dentist to patient ratio at a proper percentage, schools began to decrease class sizes.  My first year in dental school was 1983 and the 4th year class had 160 students.  My class was 120.

Class size also fuels that expenses of a program and some universities decided to completely close their dental schools.  I'm not sure how many ended up closing during that phase, but I can name 5 off the top of my head all these years later.  I believe that my alma mater UMKC eventually lowered class size to 50 in the early 2000s.

 Yet, keeping the ratio at the correct level is a difficult job.  There were too many dentists in the 80s and early 90s, but as the school closings and class size reductions began to have an effect, the ratio changed.  From about the early 2000s to about 2020, the ratio was fewer dentists as the population grew.  To compensate, schools increased class sizes and new schools opened.  However the pendulum has begun to swing again.

Now comes word from the ADA's Health Policy Institute that the number of practicing dentists is projected to grow by 10% by the year 2040.  The current number of practicing dentists is about 201,000.  An increase of 10% will increase that number to roughly 221,100 by 2040.  This projected number may well put the ratio again out of balance with where it needs to be.

Of course predicting the future is exactly that... a prediction.  There are a lot of variables to take into account and changing one part of the equation can have a tremendous affect on the others.  This is based on assumptions of population growth, continued graduation rates, and other things.

It's interesting to me because when there were fewer dentists than was needed, the tech revolution came along and greatly increased the efficiency of practices and the actual delivery of care.  With this announcement I'm looking for data mining and marketing to become a focus for the tech side of dentistry.

If you'd like to see the report, you can follow this link.  You will need your ADA logon info to access it.

There is also a nice summary of this info on DrBiscupid's website

Thursday, May 20, 2021

TeleDent has New Release with Improved Usability and Features


The smart people at TeleDent just keep making things better.  One of the things I love is companies that just never settle.  As dentistry and technology advance, the company continues to provide new features that make things easier, faster, and better for both the patient and the doctor. This dedication to improvement is one of the reasons that those of us on the Cellerant Best of Class committee voted TeleDent Best of Class in 2020.

 If you are looking for a "virtual option" for your patients, you really owe it to yourself to check what TeleDent has to offer.

Here is the latest news:

MouthWatch, LLC (Metuchen, NJ) recently added significant new features to its award-winning TeleDent all-in-one teledentistry platform designed to further balance its provider and patient benefits. The latest release of TeleDent expands the mutual benefits of the virtual provider-patient experience, the company said. The main enhancements to TeleDent include the following:

Online Patient Intake Form: Patients can now request a teledentistry consultation through an online TeleDent request form which can be added to a dental practice’s website.

Mobile Patient Portal Access: Patients can access the patient portal on a mobile phone and use the portal to schedule a live virtual consult or message the practice. A mobile app is also available for patients, but not required.

Dental Team Texting: Dental professionals can send text messages for patient portal registrations or to invite patients to join virtual consults. Email is an optional.

Virtual Dental Team Support: Team members can now use their smartphones to manage the practice’s TeleDent account directly, including user management, billing tools, and custom practice branding. Dental team members can also access training and education resources through the TeleDent Learning Center anytime, anywhere.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Starting an Evaluation of the Rite Lite Pro from AdDent




Shade matching in dentistry is always a challenge.  That's because ambient light can have such an effect on how our eyes perceive color.  Different wavelengths of light can make things appear to be a different shade.  That's why it's important to try and shade match under a variety of different types of light.  Different types of light such as fluorescent and incandescent bring out different shades.

Is there an easy way to do this?  Yes, by having a device that provides different wavelengths/colors, and that is where the Rite Lite from Addent comes in.  We'll be starting an evaluation of the new and improved device in the next few days.  In the meantime, here is what the company has to say:


Rite-Lite PRO Shade Matching Unit with HI-CRI LED’s which recreate the visual spectrum produced by natural sunlight. The Rite-Lite PRO Shade Matching Light is a device that incorporates diffused L.E.D. technology to simulate various lighting conditions to aid in the matching of teeth and all types of dental restorations. It is used by both dental professionals and dental ceramists.

Rite-Lite PRO offers three modes of light for shade taking:

1. Color-corrected light at a color temperature of 5500◦ Kelvin.

2. Incandescent – room light at 3200◦ Kelvin. This is found in many indoor environments

3. Ambient light at 3900◦ Kelvin. This is a combination of room light and daylight.

Rite-Lite PRO offers three levels of light intensity for better visualization.

Black Light setting for matching restorations to natural dentition fluorescence.

To Use:
Choose shade at 5500˚K. Verify the selected shade using 3200˚K (incandescence) and 3900˚K (ambient). Shade should match in all color temperatures.

The Rite-Lite PRO is powered by 24 L.E.D.’s (including black light LED’s), rechargeable battery and has a voltage regulator. A pad of 25 neutral color tabs is included and are used to standardize the background while shade taking. The light blinks on when the batteries get low as a reminder to replace them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

International Association for Dental Research Finds Saliva Does Not Transmit Covid-19 in Dental Offices


Here is a fascinating press release from IADR.  It looks like saliva is being well contained in the dental environment...

COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020 and given an incomplete understanding of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at that time, the American Dental Association recommended that dental offices refrain from providing non-emergency services. As a result, 198,000 dentists in the United States closed their doors to patients. The study “Sources of SARS-CoV-2 and Other Microorganisms in Dental Aerosols,” published in the Journal of Dental Research (JDR), sought to inform infection-control science by identifying the source of bacteria and viruses in aerosol generating dental procedures.

Researchers at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, Division of Periodontology, Columbus, USA, tracked the origins of microbiota in aerosols generated during treatment of 28 patients undergoing ultrasonic scaling, implant osteotomy or restorative procedures by combining reverse transcriptase qPCR, to identify and quantify SARS-CoV-2, and 16S sequencing, to characterize the entire microbiome, with fine-scale enumeration and source-tracking. Thirty minutes following the procedure, condensate was collected from the operator and assistant’s face shield, the patient’s chest and an area 6-feet distant from the site of operation.

The results show that it is possible to trace the source of contamination through DNA microbiome analysis and that the major source of microbes in aerosols came from the dental irrigant. Saliva did not significantly contribute as infection control measures such as pre-operative mouthrinses and intra-oral high-volume evacuation were used. The authors conclude that the risk for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory pathogens from aerosolized saliva in dental operatories is moderately low and that current infection control practices are adequately robust to protect personnel and patients alike.

“Understanding the sources of microbial load in aerosols is important, not only for infection control in dental operatories during the COVID pandemic, but also to inform best practices in aerosol reduction, mitigation and abatement in the long term.” said JDR Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Jakubovics, Newcastle University, England. “While further studies are needed with larger sample sizes, this study sets the stage for future work on risk of microbial transmission in oral health care settings.”

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Colonial Pipeline Hack Continues to Unravel... and Descend into a Rabbit Hole

As a diehard tech guy, the Colonial Pipeline hack has me fascinated... which is why I keep posting about it.  Over the weekend it became known that the company had paid over 5 million in ransom to try and bring the system back up.  However, part of paying the ransom is the criminals sending you a program that performs the decryption and in this case the RansomWare gang's decryption program seemed to be poorly written and due to that it was running very slowly.  Consequently it was taking much longer to perform the decryption than had been originally anticipated.

Something else I learned was that despite statements that the shutdown would have little affect on the eastern seaboard, there was a mad scramble behind the scenes to try and find trucks, trains, and ships that could bring in the fuel normally provided by the Colonial system.

Then on Friday, the website for the DarkSide gang, who perpetrated the attack, went offline.  Then rumors began to swirl that someone had broken into their crypto wallet and stolen the amount of Bitcoin that equaled the ransom that was paid.  This is becoming a question, in a riddle, wrapped inside an enigma.  There are parts of this strange incident that we will probably never know.

My concern over this situation is growing.  While the hack has received moderate coverage in the press, there has been little public attention paid to the story.  Meanwhile ransomware attacks continue to increase and there seems to be very little being done about it.  Never mind the fact that the entire east coast is supplied by ONE pipeline (who allowed THAT to happen?), it's the simple fact that ransomware has become an epidemic that for some reason remains ignored by the public at large.  I'm seeing shades of the Covid-19 crisis where no one paid it any attention until suddenly *everyone* was impacted by it.

For the last couple of years now, I've been trying diligently to et healthcare facilities to up their cyber security game, but now it's not just healthcare I'm concerned about, it's our entire system.

To that end, over the weekend a discussion has worked its way to the top of the Colonial story about whether companies should be paying ransom at all.  Many experts, including someone I highly respect, Chris Krebs, are now advocating for the federal government passing a law to make it illegal to pay ransom in these types of attacks.

No matter where you fall in that debate, it's easy to see that something needs to be done because this entire situation is getting completely out of control.  If you go to Google and just type in "Colonial Pipeline Hack"  you'll be stunned by what you see.  The number of attacks is increasing exponentially and it's exposing just how unprepared the United States really is for a cyber event.  I'm alarmed and hopefully I'm not alone.  If enough of us raise our voices and make our concerns known, we can stop this before it is too late.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Hackers with a Heart?

As most folks know by now (especially if you live on the east coast), a RansomWare attack on the Colonial Pipeline Company last week has wreaked havoc on the east coast and their oil supply.

It seems that hackers made an effort to perform a type of attack that is becoming more and more common. The criminals break into a system and encrypt the victim's data, but before doing so the crooks steal private data from the victim.   After the data is stolen, the attackers then apply the RansomWare encryption program.

At that point the victim's system is encrypted and locked up.  Now, in order to increase pressure on the victim, the attackers not only have the victim's system locked, they then threaten to release confidential data they have stolen.  Of course, if the victim pays the ransom, supposedly they will get the password to decrypt their data *and* those trustworthy crooks won't do anything with the data they've stolen.

That's the normal modus operandi for the new RansomWare gangs, but the Colonial Pipeline hack comes with a twist.  It seems that the company was forced to shut down a huge pipeline that runs from Texas to the East Coast and that pipeline delivers 45% of the gasoline needed to run the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Because of the tremendous impact this hack had, more than a couple of federal agencies got involved.  That would include the FBI and the NSA as well as CISA.  Those are some pretty big names... and those are just the ones we know about.  I'd be willing to be there were others that operate deep undercover that were brought in as well.

What I find interesting about this is that suddenly over the weekend, the criminal gang responsible for the hack, a gang calling itself DarkSide, posted on their website  their "goal is to make money" plus the gang has no interest in "creating problems for society".

They went so far as to say:

We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined goverment [sic] and look for other our motives. Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.

That makes me think they may have inadvertently stirred up a bit more than they counted on.  I'm betting they didn't have any idea how much dependence there is on that pipeline.  Will they do something like this in the future, my thoughts are "no".  I don't think anyone, even hackers, wants to make a bunch of 3 letter agencies mad.  However, that's just another thing that makes smaller healthcare practices at greater risk.  Tinkering with a company that supplies a huge amount of energy to a geographic location is not a great idea, but doing the same to a smaller less vital target looks a lot better.  One more reason to keep your security tight.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Axsys Dental's 5x400 Mill Continues to Impress

Dental mills have come a long way since their invention.  When I first go into doing CAD/CAM dentistry, it was the age of CEREC 2.  That unit  booted from a *floppy disk* and used a diamond coated wheel and a cylinder bur to create the restorations.  Times have sure changed.

The Axsys 5x400 is a wonder of modern design.  The unit can create practically anything you can imagine.  The unit can use either blocks or pucks depending on the requirements of the restoration and ca mill almost any dental material available.  That includes zirconia, lithium disilicate, PMMA, denture resin, and titanium.  Basically, if you can imagine it in the mouth, you can create it with this mill.

We are using Exocad for designing and then milling through the HyperDent software that powers the mill.  The results have been nothing shy of amazing.  Multiple units can be milled by using a puck or if a block restoration is needed, the machine can mill 6 blocks (which is 6 individual restorations) simultaneously. 

The mill can create crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays, temporaries, dentures veneers, implant abutments, and implant supported bars, just to name some of the restorations possible.

I have also been incredibly impressed with the support the company has provided.  Anytime you engage in a new process, there is a learning curve involved, but the support team at Axsys has been amazingly patient and provided amazing amounts of information throughout our journey.

I think a common misperception in the industry is that mills are only used in labs.  However, being able to create incredible results in-house is a tremendous benefit of having a 5 axis mill in a dental office.  I truly feel this is a product category that benefits dental offices as well as dental labs.

The company has recently announced the 5X500L mill which definitely should be on your short list of mills to explore.  This device is *highly recommended*!!!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Aeras 400 Flex Handpiece from DENTALEZ


If you are in the market for handpieces or you are looking to upgrade your current situation, here is some info from DentalEZ.  They have announced a new Handpiece called the Aeras 400 Flex to their product line.

I "grew up" so to speak with Star handpieces.  In school we used the  then state of the art Star 430 and Star 430 SWL.  Back in those days, having fiberoptic in the Handpiece was truly a really big deal and combining a fiber optic light with a swivel connection... well you couldn't get any more high tech than that.

My how times have changed.  Here are all the benefits fo the Aeras 400 Flex:

DENTALEZ is excited to announce the newest superstar in our constellation of Star products! To answer our customer’s ongoing needs for power and flexibility, we’ve created a new handpiece in our Aeras line specifically to be compatible with KaVo’s MULTIFlex™ coupler, the Star Aeras 400 Flex.

Maximum power with all the benefits of Star Handpieces
This new addition to the Star lineup offers dentists the maximum cutting power supported by MULTIFLEX, in a handpiece that is 30% lighter than it’s KaVo competitor*. And with added RFID Technology embedded, dentists will be equipped to track and monitor inventory and enhance safety compliance**.

Additional highlights of this latest offering include:

● Exceptional ease of navigation via smaller head size

● Extraordinary balance and in-hand stability

With Star standard features like multi-port water spray, cool-spectrum LED illumination, in-office turbine replacements, and LubeFree Technology, “the quality you’ve come to expect in Star products is built in,” says product manager Bora Kilicoglu. ”Like other Star products, the Aeras 400 flex handpieces are proudly made in the USA.”

DENTALEZ® is committed to providing state-of-the-art dental practice solutions for unlimited interconnectivity, choice and control. With unwavering top-level customer service and support, the Company has securely established itself as a trusted partner in dentistry. DENTALEZ has a proven history of providing tried-and-true dental products and equipment, and continues to manufacture a full line of technologically advanced front-to-back office solutions from well-known brands including Star, Ramvac, Forest™, NevinLabs™ and Columbia Dentoform® . Visit for more information.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Making the Recognizable into Un-recognizable...


Artificial Intelligence (AI) also known as Machine Learning can be used with images, and that is a blessing and a curse.  In healthcare it's a great adjunct to diagnosis.  There are several companies that look at x-rays and can indicate to the doctor areas the algorithm thinks need to be evaluated.  I've been lucky enough to work with some dental AI systems and I think they are the future as a diagnostic aid.

However,  just like programs can learn what tooth decay looks like on an image, there are companies out there selling programs that can easily and rapidly identify an individual in a photograph or even on a live CCTV camera on a city street.  China is probably the world leader in tracking citizens.  The cities on the Chinese mainland have cameras everywhere and their facial recognition programs know where you go every moment.  That's scary.  

Of course, that would never happen in a democracy right?  Well, maybe U.S. citizens aren't being tracked *everywhere* they go by our government,  but with our addiction to taking p photos and sharing them online, it's certainly easy to develop "patterns of life" about individuals.  That means someone somewhere know that every Monday-Thursday you're in the gym from 6:00 am to 7:30.  Or... that you were at a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest.

In most instances the AI algorithms are owned and run by the social media companies.  When you sign up for FaceBook or Instagram or SnapChat, nobody (or hardly anyone) actually reads the TOS (Terms of Service) and you end up agreeing to let a company do things with your data.  However, not too long ago a company named ClearView AI came up with a concept that isn't exactly ethical, but they did it anyway. 

ClearView AI developed a program that scoured the web and grabbed every photo it could find.  Taking data (including images) that a user didn't agree to give you, is called "scraping" and ClearView scraped a lot of images from the web.  It used all of those images to train its AI engine, and that engine got pretty good at recognizing faces.  Then ClearIf you View went to other businesses and law enforcement and offered them the ability to identify faces taken for surveillance video.

The good news is that now some researchers and developers are fighting back.  I've just read an article from MIT Technology Review that highlights programs that can be used to make your images unreadable by the AI engines. Cool huh?

This is going to become a cat and mouse game just like security has become.  Hackers find weaknesses, companies close them, and hackers then search and find more weaknesses.

If you are interested in keeping your images safe from the prying electrons of AI, take a look at this article.  If nothing else, it will make you think...  

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

A-dec and KaVo Announce Collaboration

Today, A-dec and KaVo, two of the most respected names in the dental industry, are proud to announce a new collaboration to deliver premier products and world-class service – Excellence Amplified.
With a shared purpose and combined 169 years of industry experience, the two companies will now collaborate to offer additional integration solutions aimed at enabling better clinical outcomes and patient experiences. KaVo’s legacy of premium performance and innovation combined with A-dec’s legendary reputation for quality and customer service makes this a powerful collaboration.
A-dec President, Marv Nelson, announced the collaboration to employees earlier this week:
“The dental industry is all about human connection, and the positive relationships we forge to work for the betterment of dentistry. A-dec’s commitment to this mission starts with our #1 core value, Concern for People: our employees that create superior customer solutions of the highest quality, and our valued partners that share our high standards for service and dedication to our mutual customers. Our new collaboration with KaVo represents our unwavering commitment to the betterment of dentistry worldwide.”
KaVo Vice President & General Manager, Ronald Linke, added about the collaboration:
“It’s a special opportunity when two industry leaders, each with a proven track record of excellence, can come together and collaborate with a mutually shared vision. We’ve devoted our business to providing superior, premium quality instruments, and treatment units, to dental professionals, since over 100 years. We continuously seek to improve our business and service to our customers. This collaboration, with an organization that demonstrates the same level of commitment to its customers, presents a clear opportunity for KaVo to support dental professionals in new, innovative ways.”
Additional details about this collaboration, including product and ordering availability, marketing collateral, and more will be shared with you in the coming weeks.
As always, your A-dec Territory Representatives and Customer Service team remain committed to taking your calls and advocating for your needs. If you have questions about this collaboration, please send them to We look forward to continuing to meet your needs in the clinical products and services space.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Restoring smiles with nanomaterials: Indian-American chemist Sumita Mitra named European Inventor Award 2021 finalist


Frequently I get the opportunity to learn (and appreciate) backstory of a product or device.  I love these types of stories.  Often there a great stories behind products that we use everyday in our personal or professional lives, but we just never hear them.  Today's post is one of those stories.  The last time I checked, the most popular composite in the U.S. is 3M Filtek Supreme.  It's a product that thousand of dentists reach for every day, but they've never heard anything about its inventor.

Today I would like you the learn the story of Sumita Mitra, the scientist behind 3M Filtek technology...

Munich, 4 May 2021 – The European Patent Office (EPO) announces that the Indian-American chemist Sumita Mitra has been nominated as a finalist in the “Non-EPO countries” category of the European Inventor Award 2021. Mitra was the first to apply nanotechnology to the production of dental materials, leading to the creation of a new composite to repair teeth which has many advantages over conventional materials. 

Mitra’s material overcomes many of the limitations of previous dental composites, which were either too weak to be used on biting surfaces, or quickly lost their polish and became physically unattractive. In addition, her invention is more versatile than other composites, meaning it can be used in any area of the mouth, and simplifies the filling procedure for dentists. Commercialised as Filtek™ Supreme Universal Restorative since 2002 by 3M, the US multinational for whom Mitra worked for more than 30 years, the technology and the products developed from it are today used by dentists around the globe.


“Mitra’s invention takes what was an emerging technology at the time – nanotechnology – and applies it to a new sector to provide a solution for dentists and relief for patients,” says EPO president António Campinos, announcing the European Inventor Award 2021 finalists. “Patents have protected Mitra’s material and helped ensure that her invention remains commercially successful nearly 20 years after its launch.”  


The winners of the 2021 edition of the EPO's annual innovation prize will be announced at a ceremony starting at 19:00 CEST on 17 June which has this year been reimagined as a digital event for a global audience.


Making a new nanomaterial

Until the late 1990s, dentists wishing to perform natural-looking tooth repairs relied on a combination of two materials: composite microfills, which were aesthetically-pleasing but too weak to be used in teeth towards the back of the mouth and biting surfaces; and stronger, but less attractive hybrid composites. A key problem was the size of the filler particles which are suspended in the resin to impart it with strength, colour, and opacity. Traditionally, these fillers consisted of dense, large particles, such as quartz or glass, milled down into finer particles – but as the resin gradually wore away, these particles begin to protrude from the material or were plucked from its surface, resulting in bumps and craters which scattered light. The result was a filling which quickly lost its reflectivity and polish. 


It was while working in the oral care division of US multinational 3M that Sumita Mitra became aware of the limitations of existing composite materials. At the same time, nanotechnology was emerging as a field of research and Mitra decided to explore how these new developments could be applied to dentistry. She began working on nanotechnology-based solutions for a new dental material, driven by a desire to use her expertise in polymer chemistry and materials science to develop inventions that solve real-life problems for people. 


Mitra’s idea was to replace composite fillers with nanoparticles – ultrafine particles measuring between 1 and 100 nanometres in diameter – which are smaller than the wavelength of visible light and do not therefore scatter it, resulting in a material which retains its shine. At first, Mitra and her team at 3M incorporated uniform nanoparticles measuring less than 20 nanometres in size (1 nm is a billionth of a metre) into resins, but although the materials they created were strong and attractive-looking, they were difficult to mould, making them unsuitable for dentistry. 


She and the team therefore developed a technique for creating linked clusters of nanoparticles, which they called ‘nanoclusters’, combining these with single nanoparticle of varying diameters, resulting in a strong, durable and shiny material, with excellent handling properties. By adding tiny amounts of pigment, and altering the chemical composition of the nanoparticles, the team also created a range of different shades, which can be matched to individual patients’ teeth, and layered to create a more natural finish. “The use of nanotechnology gave me the opportunity of making a new material,” says Mitra. “It restores peoples smiles and improves the quality of their lives”.


Following the successful development process, Mitra worked closely with 3M’s patent attorneys to construct the patents to protect her ground-breaking work. Besides her contribution to the Filtek range, Mitra is named as inventor on 58 granted European patents for inventions that have resulted in various dental innovations including resin-modified glass ionomers and new adhesives which can be found in other 3M products. “The patent was essential for safeguarding the invention so that others could not infringe on the technology,” she says. 


Lasting impact in dentistry innovation 
The material based on Mitra’s work, Filtek™ Supreme Universal Restorative, was launched by 3M in 2002 and, although several new generations have been developed since, the current line of products is still based on Mitra’s European patents. 3M regards the material as unique because it combines durability with aesthetic qualities not reached by competitors’ products which rely on micro- or nano-hybrid fillers instead.

Mitra’s invention has contributed to the company being named as one of the top three manufacturers for the global composite filing in the dental restoration market in 2019. The material‘s strength is its versatility according to her: “You have all the desired properties of a tooth filling in one material. That is why this technology has been used to make so many different types of tooth restorations around the world.”


Although Mitra retired from 3M in 2010, the enduring success of her invention continues with Filtek products used in one billion tooth restorations worldwide by dentists to date. Today she continues to contribute to research and development through her own consulting company. She also volunteers in her community and hopes to inspire young people to develop an interest in science.


Notes to the editor

About the inventor

Sumita Mitra is a partner at Mitra Chemical Consulting, LLC, a company she set up with her husband after leaving 3M in 2010, and which advises companies on new technology development, product design, commercialisation, mergers and acquisitions. She was named an American Chemical Society Hero of Chemistry in 2009, inducted into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2018 and elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2021 for her work related to inventions in nanotechnology for use in dental materials. Other awards include a Hollenback Memorial Prize from the Academy of Operative Dentistry (2020); a Peyton-Skinner Award for Innovation in Dental Materials from the International Association of Dental Research (2012); and  a Top 25 Women in Dentistry Award (2010). Mitra was elected to the 3M Carlton Society 1998 - the highest 3M award given for lifelong contribution to R&D. 


Sumita Mitra is named on 58 European patents, four of which are related to her nomination for the European Inventor Award 2021: EP1225867, EP1227782, EP1229886 EP1771143.


Watch the video about Sumita Mitra and her invention (live as of May 4)

Download images of Sumita Mitra and her invention (live as of May 4)


About the European Inventor Award

The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, it honours individual inventors and teams of inventors whose pioneering inventions provide answers to some of the biggest challenges of our times. The finalists and winners are selected by an independent jury consisting of international authorities from the fields of business, politics, science, academia and research who examine the proposals for their contribution towards technical progress, social development, economic prosperity and job creation in Europe. The Award is conferred in five categories (Industry, Research, SMEs, Non-EPO countries and Lifetime achievement). In addition, the public selects the winner of the Popular Prize from among the 15 finalists through online voting on the EPO website.


About the EPO 

With 6 400 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 44 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Why Oral Cancer is Something Every Dentist Should Screen For

Oral Cancer 

It's two words that none of us want to hear... and for those of us that see them on occasion... it's 2 words we hate to say.

I want to make a point today of explaining to non-medical readers today why almost all dentists screen for signs of the disease.  Sometimes when I'm doing an oral cancer screening in my office someone will (usually a male) will say, "Why are you doing that?  I don't chew."

The reason for screening is to catch things earlier and unfortunately oral cancer has changed in the past decade or so.  It *used to be* a disease of older folks, especially men, who had a history of tobacco use as well as alcohol consumption.  When a man was in the mid-forties or older with a tobacco and alcohol habit was when you normally expected to see the disease.

Human papilloma virus has changed all that.  Now, the majority of cases are found in men *under forty*.  HPV is the virus that causes most cervical cancers and the mouth and the female reproductive tract are made of similar type tissues.  Unfortunately that means that a virus that thrives in the female reproductive tract can also thrive in men's oral cavities, especially in the tonsil area and the throat.

We have seen an incredible increase in the incidence of oral cancers in younger men and we need to educate the lay public about it.  Many doctors are now recommending Guardasil for both sexes now.  It is a vaccine against HPV-16 which is the virus that causes these cancers.

If your dentist is NOT performing an oral cancer screening at every cleaning, ask for one.  This is a horrible disease that needs to be caught at its earliest stages to increase chances of survival.

To close out today's post, I'd like to provide a link about a young man in Australia that is battling this horrible disease.  It's an emotional read and I think everyone should see it.