PDF: Beginnings of the dental composite revolution

The true age of dental composites was launched with this initial science into coupling agents. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the word “composite” was still new to dentistry. 

Its predecessor, the adjective “reinforced,” dominated the dental materials nomenclature instead. In this landmark article by Bowen, the term “composite” does not even appear.

Dental materials science was just beginning to deal with the extreme challenges of chemically connecting internal interfaces of things to make ceramic-polymer composites. 

In materials science, the term “composite” means a physical mixture of any phases (metal-metal, metal-ceramic, ceramicceramic, ceramic-polymer, polymer-metal, polymer-polymer). 

Bulk properties of any composite depend on volume fraction and properties of each phase and the characteristics of the interfaces connecting those phases. Without strong internal interfaces, composites behave poorly.

That was the scientific backdrop for this early revoluexperiment creating what everyone understands today as “dental composite.” 

This 1963 publication by Dr. Rafael Bowen was a “proof of concept” that documented chemical treatment of silica particles so their surfaces could be intimately bonded into a mixture with polymer during curing and generate a strong restorative material.