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Grape seed extract found to create stronger, longer-lasting dental fillings

A team of researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago found that grape seed extract fortifies the bond between resin and dentin in teeth fillings.

A 2017 study has found that grape seed extract can extend the life of tooth fillings.  

Researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago’s (UIC) College of Dentistry found that the extract from the seeds in grapes can strengthen the dentin and fortify the lifespan of composite-resin fillings used by dentists, which enables them to last longer. The study was published in the Journal of Dental Research.

The extract contains an organic compound that can be used to fortify dentin, a calcified layer of matter underneath a tooth’s enamel that protects the dental pulp. 

The fight against dental cavities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have cavities. A cavity is an irreversibly damaged part of a tooth. Caused by decay, it progresses into a tiny opening or hole in the tooth.

Cavities form in teeth when the acids produced by bacteria in plaque erode a tooth’s hard outer layer faster than the tooth can repair itself. This first leads to tiny openings in the hard external enamel and then, once areas of the enamel wear away, the decay can reach the next layer of the tooth called the dentin. 

To protect the teeth when cavities begin to form, a dentist removes the decay with a drill and then seals the hole with a filling. But these dental fillings don’t last forever.

What causes dental fillings to fail?

There are different kinds of dental fillings, including composite-resin and amalgam fillings. Composite-resin fillings are made from plastic and fine glass particles. These give them a colour that matches patients’ teeth. It makes it a good choice for smaller fillings and teeth bonding.

Amalgam is darker looking because it is a combination of mercury, silver, tin, and other materials and ends up looking darker than the natural teeth. Though it’s not as aesthetically-pleasing as composite-resin fillings, it is, however, largely preferred by dentists for its cost-effectiveness and resilience. The mercury in amalgam fillings has, however, been blamed for compromising patients’ health.

While composite-resin fillings typically last only five to seven years, amalgam fillings can last between 10-15 years – twice that amount of time. Though patients can go back to their dentists to have their fillings taken out, they sometimes experience failed adhesive restorations.

According to Ana Bedran-Russo, an associate professor of restorative dentistry at, these failed adhesive restorations are frequently caused by secondary caries and the gradual fracture of amalgam margins. This, in turn, leads to the formation of gaps between the amalgam filling and the tooth.

When fillings fail, decay forms around it and the seal is lost. We want to reinforce the interface, which will make the resin bond better to the dentin… the interface can be changed through the use of new natural materials.

Ana Bedran-Russo, College of Dentistry at University of Illinois Chicago

Although dental restorative materials have seen numerous advances over the last few decades, there is still a risk of degradation of the adhesive interface. As a result, researchers have been hard at work to find innovative ways for teeth to repair themselves.

Stronger bond needed between teeth and fillings

The UIC researchers found that grape seed extract strengthens composite-resin fillings and enables them to secure teeth better. The extract can also strengthen the dentin, allowing the fillings to be more durable and long-lasting. 

According to Bedran-Russo, when fillings break down, it becomes less secure on teeth and causes caries to form. Fortifying this interface will enable the resin to bond better to the dentin. This can be done by the use of new materials.

The grape seed extract can increase the strength of the dentin. Dentin, which is majorly made of collagen, comprises most of the tissue in teeth that are caused by a buildup of calcium.

Resins have to attach to the dentin, says Bedran-Russo, but the interface between the tooth and the resin is a weak point. This can cause restorations to break down. Using grape seed extract, however, helps resin to bond better to dentin. 

Making fillings more durable

The stability of the interface between teeth and dental fillings is key for the durability of the adhesive joints and, hence, the life of restoring and minimising tooth loss, says Bedran-Russo.

The stability of the interface is key for the durability of such adhesive joints, and hence, the life of the restoration and minimizing tooth loss.

Ana Bedran-Russo, College of Dentistry at University of Illinois Chicago

She discovered that ruined collagen can repair itself when the extracts from grape seeds are combined with oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). 

OPCs are the flavonoids found in most food and vegetables. They are a group of naturally occurring particles with essential health benefits. First discovered and named by Professor Jacques Masquelier, OPCs provide a vast array of health benefits throughout the body due to the support they offer at a physiological level.

They help to protect and support healthy collagen and elastin and their regeneration. They also have many remarkable effects on the vascular and immune systems. 

When dentin that’s abundant in collagen interlocks with composite-resin, it provides better adhesion and doesn’t rely on moisture to stay securely in place.

Grape seed extract also has other benefits. Bedran-Russo points out that it could prevent tooth decay. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests that grape seed extract might help lower levels of cholesterol as well as the effects of stress on the body and mind.

Available in capsule and tablet form, it could also help improve other health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Chidirim Ndeche

Chidirim Ndeche is a reporter at Breakthrough.

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