How do we test dental materials?

(from University of Minnesota Academic Health Center's Health Talk)

Long before dental materials make it to your mouth, they have to be tested. But rather than have a person chew all day, every day for more than a year, the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics (MDRCBB) within the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry came up with a better solution: they designed a mouth which has one sole job. Chewing.

No, seriously.

The University of Minnesota’s very own chewing machine, or artificial mouth, helps researchers in the School of Dentistry develop and test restorative dental materials.

Dr. Alex Fok, academic director of the MDRCBB, took some time to chat with Health Talk about how the machine chews.

“The machine simulates the chewing motion of the human jaw,” explained Fok. “It does that at a high speed – 300,000 cycles in a couple of days, which is the equivalent to a year of chewing.”

The artificial mouth doesn’t just chew material to ensure it will hold up in a human mouth, it’s the first step in the process to develop and approve new restorative materials.

“Testing with the artificial mouth provides a first screening before dental researchers commit to expensive and long clinical testing of these materials,” said Fok. “This way we know if there might be a problem long before a new product ever comes close to a human mouth.”