School of Dentistry

Biomechanics and Biomaterial

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he overall goal of the Biomaterials and Biomechanics program is to develop new, and improve existing dental materials and technologies for increasing the reliability, predictability and affordability of oral healthcare.

Biomechanics & Biomaterials

Program leader: Professor Paul Ichim

Program members: Dr Laura Dalton-Ecker, Dr Jennifer Bazen (honorary position)

HDR Postgraduate students: Nil

DClinDent students: Nil

DMD students: Adrian Sciarrone (DMD3), Chen Yu Liu (DMD3), Yu-Meng Choong (DMD2), Bojan Sevo (DMD2)

Collaborators: Prof Xiaozhi Hu (UWA Mech Eng, Advanced Materials and Bioceramics), Prof Thomas Braunl (UWA Eng, Robotics and electronics), A/Prof Robert Anthonappa (UWA, Paediatric Dentistry), Prof Qing Li (USyd, Biomechanics and Bioengineering), Prof Michael Swain (U Kuwait, Biomaterials), Dr Debra Carr (UK, Cranfield, Impact & Armour, Defence Engineering), Prof Patrick Schmidlin (U Zurich, Periodontology and Implantology), Dr Andreas Bindl (U Zurich, Dental CAD/CAM), UWA Bioceramics Group, UWA Makers Group

Industry Partners: VITA Zahnfabrik H. Rauter GmbH & Co, Epson Australia

Research Program Objectives

The Biomaterials and Biomechanics has 2 main objectives and aims to:

  • Evaluate existing, and design and develop new functionally-graded materials and biomaterials.
  • Evaluate existing and design and develop new computerised and automated devices and instruments for providing and maintaining oral health care.

Research Program Summary

The Biomaterials and Biomechanics Research Program has innovation at its core and undertakes avant-garde research into advanced biomaterials, dental CAD/CAM and 3D printing and Dental Robotics and Augmented Reality Dental Clinical Environment. The program brings together multidisciplinary expertise to create a vibrant research framework with the specific goal of encouraging innovation and lateral thinking to provide workable and applicable solutions to existing clinical problems.

A selectively-reinforced nano-engineered gold/glass-ceramic composite has been developed which shows a 3-fold increase in strength and toughness compared the conventional dental glass-ceramics whilst preserving its superior aesthetic and low abrasiveness properties

A high-strength, load-bearing biocompatible porous coating has been developed for biological implants. The coating can be applied in thick layers on ceramic and metal substrates and has shown to improve the biomechanical environment of the implant.

A hierarchical biomimetic "synthetic enamel" material model has been developed. The material model development included advanced CAD modelling, parametric scripting and FEA. This has resulted in an Australian patent. The material model is an anisotropic hierarchical hybrid that adapted modern manufacturing and the resulting block can be processed in the shape of a dental restoration using existing dental CAD/CAM or 3D printing technologies.

The group has recently initiated preliminary investigations into development of a moisture-insensitive, micro-reinforced calcium-sulphate based restorative material (based on the chemistry of modified Portland cement) for restoring temporary teeth.

A novel design of and short intra-radicular post was developed. The post design uses the structural engineering principles of beams and it was shown that a post of only 3mm provides to the restored tooth a similar strength to the one provided by a conventional length post.

The Biomaterials and Biomechanics Program include research and development of automated devices (robots) and introduction of microelectronics, sensors and augmented reality in clinical dental practice.

The Sort My Burs project is aimed at developing an automated robot capable of fast and accurate sorting of dental burs in medium/large dental practices. The Augmented Reality Dental Clinical Environment and the "smart" handpiece projects are merging positional, low-voltage sensors with wearable technology (smart glasses) to create an AR operating environment in which the clinical information (e.g. radiographs) and real-time orientation of the bur is holo-projected above the operating field forming a "clinical tactical HUD" thus increasing the ergonomics and the precision of the dental surgical procedures.

The "smart" handpiece project investigates the use of positional sensors (accelerometers) to provide information about the roll, pitch and yaw of the bur as compared to a reference axis. This allows the clinician to accurately reproduce and maintain the angulation of the bur with respect to a reference axis. The sensors are mounted on the handpiece and connected wirelessly (via Bluetooth) to the smart-glasses, providing real-time visual feed-back to the operator. Such an arrangement will bring consistency and repeatability in the positioning of the handpiece, thus improving the precision of the operator in high-precision procedures (e.g. tooth preparation, implant placement etc.).

The Augmented Reality Dental Clinical Environment and the "smart" handpieces projects are undertaken at the School of Dentistry and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Western Australia.

Current Research Projects 

  • Functionally-engineered dental materials
  • Investigations into the use of BioDentine as a fissure sealant material
  • What should dental students wear: protective qualities of common garments in dental office
  • A micron-level, multi-material dental composite 3D printer
  • The Augmented Reality Dental Clinical Environment and the "smart" handpiece