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Dental Technology Breakthrough Thanks to Lowly Eggshell

Dental Technology Breakthrough Thanks to Lowly Eggshell

In search for an innovative and cost effective alternative to pumice, which is used in the polishing of acrylic dentures, a DUT student has made a breakthrough in Dental Technology.

Stanley Onwubu, a Dental Technology Master’s student has developed an abrasive material using eggshells, a material that is almost always discarded as household waste.  

Onwubu said his research was stimulated by Nigeria’s challenge of a limited supply of pumice supply which is traditionally used in polishing removable dental appliances. “Nigeria has a high pumice cost and in an attempt to offset costs, dental technicians in the country reuse pumice previously used to polish old dentures to polish new dentures which creates problems of cross contamination,” said Onwubu. “The study, which I found innovative and interesting, looked at the use of a local, cheaper material that can address the aforementioned challenges. The research looked at eggshells which are also used in different applications such as in toothpaste as an abrasive material, in animal feed because of high calcium content and thirdly in removing heavy metals,” he said. 

As part of the research, Onwubu conducted a pilot study which revealed that eggshells are in fact more effective than pumice in polishing heat cured acrylic dentures. The results of his pilot study have indicated that the product he developed could be patented. He is currently exploring this potential patent opportunity.

While Onwubu said the study was virtually glitch free as a result of supportive supervisors, the biggest highlight was being able to make eggshell material soluble so that it could perform its intended purpose in the study. “An eggshell is made up of about 95 percent calcium carbonate. In order to polish dentures, we needed to mix the eggshells with water to create a slurry. However, because eggshells don’t dissolve in water because of the calcium carbonate content, the result was a surface tension. The ability to make this material soluble and fit it for its intended purpose was the highlight of the research”, said Onwubu.  

A lack of research in this area was attributed as the main reason as to why eggshells had been overlooked as a better alternative to pumice. 

DUT’s Drs Anisa Vahed and Shalini Singh, together with Prof Krishnan Kanny, have supervised Onwubu’s research. Dr Vahed described Onwubu as a dedicated and passionate student. 

“Stanley’s research began in 2014 when he attended a research methodology short course in the Dental Sciences Department from January to May”, which is a prerequisite to enter the Master’s programme. From there, he submitted an intention to do his Master’s degree. Since March 2015 to date, Stanley has been able to do his pilot and main study. He has managed to write a journal paper for a Material Science journal, which is ready to be uploaded, has presented at an international conference and has another paper that we are busy looking at and hopefully will be uploaded in the next couple of weeks. He’s been working hard and has been pushed to his limits, if not beyond that, and has managed to stay focused. Given his drive and being hard on him as his supervisor, I’m positive that Stanley will submit his thesis for examination by mid January 2016,” said Dr Vahed.

– Sinegugu Ndlovu

Pictured: Stanley Onwubu, the DUT Dental Technology Master’s student who has developed an abrasive material using eggshells (middle) and his supervisors Dr Anisa Vahed (left) and Dr Shalini Singh (right). 

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