Indian-American chemist Sumita Mitra has won one of Europe’s most prestigious innovation prizes for her pioneering use of nanotechnology in dentistry to produce stronger and more aesthetically pleasing fillings which are now used by dentists around the world.
Mitra won European Inventor Award 2021 in the “Non-EPO countries” category.
This researcher found that nanoclusters could be used in dentistry, resulting in robust, durable, and aesthetically pleasing fillings, the European Patent Office (EPO) said in a statement.
Her material overcomes many limitations of previous dental composites, which were either too weak to be used on biting surfaces or quickly lost their polish. These tiny clusters have been used in one billion dental restorations worldwide, it said.
EPO President António Campinos said, “Sumita Mitra took an entirely new path in her field and demonstrated how technological innovation, protected by patents, can transform a sector, and in this case bring benefits to millions of dental patients. Her invention remains commercially successful nearly 20 years after its launch, another reason why she is an inspiration to the next generation of scientists.”
Until the late 1990s, dentists struggled to find an optimal material to secure fillings in place to repair decayed or broken teeth. Commonly used options (composite microfills and hybrid composites) were either too weak for biting surfaces or became dull and unattractive over time.
While working in the Oral Care Division of the American multinational 3M, Mitra became determined to find an alternative.
Mitra’s ground-breaking filler FiltekTM Supreme universal restorative was commercialized by 3M and launched in 2002.