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Watching Dental Cement Dry is Fun for Physicists


That’s about as fun as watching cement dry.

We’ve all heard that line before, so this headline almost seems like a joke—that watching cement dry would actually be fun! But alas, it is! Well, it can be if you’re into physics.

According to the results of a study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Aberystwyth University, there are “sweet points” for dental fillings, where cement used to fill cracks regain elasticity before hardening indefinitely.

The research team used nano-level dentistry to measure how cement sets in real-time. Specifically, they look at the surface between the hard glass particles and surrounding polymer as the strength of the cement develops. Using computer models and intense beams of neutrons, the team identified “sweet points” in time, or the moment when the cement starts to approach the toughness of the tissue that our teeth are made of (occuring in the first 12 hours of setting).

What Does It Mean?
Understanding “sweet points” of dental cement could lead to the creation of longer-lasting fillings and easier treatment options for patients.

“Dental fillings are really complex materials. Using neutrons, we have discovered how mechanical toughness develops, element by element. This is fundamental physics in action for the general good,” said Professor Neville Greaves, co-author of the study published in journal Nature Communications.

But cement in dentistry is just one possibility. The findings could have implications for other industries like construction, where it’s necessary to test the toughness in other materials. Think about that the next time you see a concrete truck! 



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