Dental researchers develop new glass fibre composite materials

30 October 2019
Transferring a new short fibre composite to the Australian market

Associate Professor Ayman Ellakwa is part of a team of researchers from UNSW and the University of Wollongong who have received a CRC-P grant with a total project value of $8.3 million, to develop a new fibre-reinforced dental composite.

Mercury-based dental restoration amalgams are being phased out worldwide due to mercury toxicity. Now, for the first time, Associate Professor Ayman Ellakwa from the Sydney Dental School and a team of Australian researchers have developed new glass fibre-reinforced composite dental restoration material whose mechanical properties nearly match those of amalgam.

Funded by a $3 million Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-P) Grant, with a total project value of $8.3 million, the team are working to transfer this new material, together with a commercial manufacturing and packaging facility, to the Australian industry.

"The project will enable the new environmentally-friendly glass fibre surface material, which is overlayed with a naturally occuring nanotubular mineral, to replace amalgam in dental treatment in a matter of years", says Professor Ellakwa.  

The project is a collaboration between SDI Limited Bestech Australia Pty Ltd, Dentalk Pty Ltd, the University of New South Wales, the University of Wollongong and the University of Sydney, with preclinical testing set to start in the new year.

A clinical case successfully treated by Associate Professor Ayman Ellakwa using polyethylene fibres.

The pathway to innovation

Associate Professor Ayman Ellakwa said "I'm so pleased to receive this grant because it shows my hard work over the years."

Ellakwa completed his PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2001, where he evaluated all continuous fibres (Polyethylene, Glass, Kevlar) and their effect on the mechanical properties of dental composites.

"When I arrived in Sydney in 2007, I decided to change the technique of dental composite reinforcement from using long to short fibres with the aim of replacing dental amalgam and reducing mercury use.

I decided to develop a new material that can do the same job of dental amalgam and has similar mechanical properties and looks more aesthetic.

In 2016 I received an $360k ARC linkage grant with a team of researchers from UNSW to investigate the effect of different short fibre addition to dental composite.

From this grant, we managed to find the proper fibre aspect ratio added to dental composite that will increase the strength and the wear resistance of the dental composite.

Clinical case where failed porcelain fused to metal bridge is replaced with fibre reinforced dental composite bridge.

These striking findings improved our relationship with SDI (an Australian dental materials company) and they were really interested in supporting our CRC-P grant application to develop a new dental composite reinforced with short glass fibres that will in the future replace dental amalgam.

Our application was so successful we received the highest amount of funding that applies to this scheme. The total project value is $8.3 million, with $3 million in cash (the maximum amount) awarded by the federal government." said Associate Professor Ayman Ellakwa.

Professor Heiko Spallek, Head of School and Dean at Sydney Dental School said, "I am very proud that the Sydney Dental School is part of this competitive award that will work to develop a new fibre-reinforced dental composite."

Associate Professor Ayman Ellakwa

Associate Professor Ayman Ellakwa

Associate Professor Ayman Ellakwa

Head of Prosthodontics & Oral Rehabilitation (including Fixed & Removable Prosthodontics)

Ellakwa currently holds appointments as Chair for Oral Rehabilitation, and the Coordinator for Integrated Clinical Dentistry. He has published 50 papers and has presented lectures to the profession covering a range of topics related to restorative dentistry.

He is working as a reviewer for dental materials and the Journal of American Dental Association and is actively collaborating with different universities in Japan, South Korea, and Brazil.

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