1. Nanotechnology: How it keeps you smiling
particles - where science matters
  • Nanotechnology: How it keeps you smiling

    By Sue Casement, 3M Storyteller and Eliot Popko, 3M Videographer

    “It took the dental world by pleasant surprise.” - Sumita Mitra, retired 3M scientist

    Sometimes an invention is so groundbreaking that nobody even thinks to ask for it.

    Sumita Mitra’s invention of new-to-the-world dental tech has made life easier for patients and dentists.

    • Sumita Mitra works in her lab at 3M.

      An easy-to-use, light-cured technology for fillings was an “unarticulated need,” she says, and one dentists quickly adopted.

      The glass ionomer solution she developed was so unexpected that it was met with incredulity by both dentists and 3M technical experts. It displaced the existing 100-year-old technology previously used by dentists.

      She took that success and pushed forward with the polymer technology she developed. She continued testing glass ionomers and found applications for new areas in dental, including the first successful commercial dental adhesive.

      Her big successes gave her the license to explore other technologies at 3M, including nanotechnology – the manipulation of matter at a molecular level. She worked with a team to develop nanotechnology for dental fillings and restoratives – and helped launch a new product called 3M Filtek Supreme Universal Restorative.

      It was the first success at 3M using nanomaterials. The itsy-bitsy clusters of nanometer-sized particles mimic a tooth’s natural enamel – and allow it to polish down smoothly and blend with the tooth. “Something like this cannot be done alone,” Sumita says. “It has to be done with help from others.”

      So, next time you get a filling or other restorative work on your teeth, you can probably thank Sumita for her pioneering work to keep those pearly whites looking like new.

    Nanometer particle clusters
    View Video

    Learn more about nanotechnology from this pioneering expert.