Acta Biomaterialia 168, 309 (2023)
The preservation of oral health over a person's lifespan is a key factor for a high quality of life. Sustaining oral health requires high-end dental materials with a plethora of attributes such as durability, non-toxicity and ease of application. The combination of different requirements leads to increasing miniaturization and complexity of the material components such as the composite and adhesives, which makes the precise characterization of the material blend challenging. Here, we demonstrate how modern IR spectroscopy and imaging from the micro- to the nanoscale can provide insights on the chemical composition of the different material sections of a dental filling. We show how the recorded IR-images can be used for a fast and non-destructive porosity determination of the studied adhesive. Furthermore, the nanoscale study allows precise assessment of glass cluster structures and distribution within their characteristic organically modified ceramic (ORMOCER) matrix and an assessment of the interface between the composite and adhesive material. For the study we used a Fourier-Transform-IR (FTIR) microscope and a quantum cascade laser-based IR-microscope (QCL-IR) for the microscale analysis and a scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) for the nanoscale analysis. The paper ends with an in-depth discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the different imaging methods to give the reader a clear picture for which scientific question the microscopes are best suited for.