Move over, metal: introducing polymers for dental applications

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The applications and advantages of polymers are so plentiful you can practically pick a domain and find an innovative use for them. Dentistry is one such new domain where Solvay is in the process of revolutionizing dental prosthetics with Ultaire™ AKP, a new high-performance polymer.

Smartphones, cookware, airplanes… Polymers are an integral part of countless objects in our everyday lives. And now they are being used successfully for dentistry as well.

Removable partial dentures (RPDs) — prescribed when patients have several missing teeth — have historically been fabricated from metal, requiring a labor-intensive and time-consuming manufacturing process for dental labs. But that was before. 

RPDs made from Ultaire™ AKP (standing for “aryl ketone polymer”) offer dental labs, dentists and patients a long list of advantages: they’re biocompatible, lightweight and free from the unpleasant metallic taste of old-fashioned RPDs – not to mention they look better.

A paradigm shift from the 1940s

But the revolution goes even further. With Ultaire™ AKP, the manufacturing process is set to go digital. “For dental labs, making metal dentures has been a complex 22-step process using technology from the 1940s, with traditional impressions and casts,” says Shawn Shorrock, Global Director at Solvay Dental 360, the division of Solvay Specialty Polymers that created Ultaire AKP. “With polymer-based milling discs, the process can become fully digital, cutting out large amounts of the manual work that was necessary before.” 

Though at the moment the computer-assisted milling of a perfectly fitting denture based on an intra-oral scan is still rather rare, “the course is set and the milling equipment is already in the labs. Metal-free RPDs represent a paradigm shift”, adds Shawn Shorrock.

From dental labs to dentists and patients, everyone is set to save time with this technology. A metal RPD takes days in the lab to produce, and metal denture frames can require up to seven patient visits to the dentist. 




Replacing metal, everywhere

So how did the idea emerge to develop a new polymer for dental care? “Looking at unmet needs in healthcare, we saw an opportunity to replace metal in dental products, similar to other markets we serve such as orthopedic and cardiovascular, explains Shawn Shorrock. It’s where we can add the most value with our polymers.”From that perspective, a product such as this further advances Solvay’s “innovation power as a world leader in metal-replacing materials”, as states Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, CEO of Solvay.

That’s how, out of Solvay Specialty Polymers’ 35 brands and 1,500 formulations, the one that best fit the specific needs of removable partial dentures was selected, Ultaire™ AKP was developed, Solvay Dental 360 created, and the product was first unveiled at the International Dental Show in Cologne in March 2017, with an initial launch in the US, the UK and German markets.

The ‘360’ represents the fact that this is more than just a product,” adds Shawn Shorrock. “Solvay Dental 360 provides a unique full-circle offering for dentists and dental labs, making everyone’s life easier in the process.”

dental 360