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Institute of Dentistry - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

A smart toothpaste that “knows” what your teeth need

Researchers from the Institute of Dentistry and the School of Engineering and Materials Science have collaborated to develop an award-winning ‘smart’ toothpaste. BioMinF uses patented bioactive glass technology to protect teeth from decay and reduce sensitivity and pain. The toothpastes, launched in 2016, are now on sale in over 20 countries globally, with up to 100,000 tubes being produced every month.

Dental biomaterials researchers worked with Queen Mary’s patented bioactive glasses, which release fluoride over 10-12 hours (vs 10 minutes for most toothpastes). 

The glasses form fluorapatite minerals that protect the tooth from decay and reduce the effects of hypersensitivity. Six clinical trials have shown that BioMinF is twice as effective at relieving pain than other leading sensitivity toothpastes. 90% of users surveyed had reduced tooth sensitivity after using the product, and professionals are now recommending it.

This discovery led to the founding of spin-out company BioMin Technologies Ltd in 2014. BioMinF toothpastes are now sold in over 20 countries, including the UK, Canada, China, Germany, India and USA, and have licensing options in Australia, Russia and Spain. This generates in excess of £500,000 in annual revenue for BioMin Technologies Ltd, with over 100,000 tubes being produced every month. 

In 2019, BioMinF was named the UK’s best oral sensitivity relief provider in the Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Awards. It is the first toothpaste to be accredited for dentine hypersensitivity and tooth remineralisation by the Oral Health Foundation.

Making the fluoride ‘stick’

Fluoride in toothpaste is vital in preventing tooth decay and promoting re-mineralisation of teeth, helping them to resist decay. However, most of the fluoride from conventional toothpastes is lost in the first few minutes after brushing. In order for chemically stable fluorapatite to form, it needs to remain on the teeth for at least four hours.

Further, if the fluorapatite minerals develop while on the teeth, they can re-mineralise tissue and block the exposed dentinal tubules. These exposed tubules are associated with hypersensitive teeth, where one suffers pain due to hot, cold or mechanical stimulation.

This made it necessary to develop a formulation that ‘sticks’ to teeth and enables fluoride to be released slowly. 

Bioactive glasses make the difference

Research at Queen Mary, led by the Institute of Dentistry’s Professor Robert Hill, has shown that a toothpaste containing bioactive glasses can deliver this. His work, in partnership with Dr Hing, an expert in apatite chemistry and Professor Bushby (biomaterials characterisation) gives the Queen Mary team a world-leading structural understanding of bioactive glasses. 

Bioactive glasses dissolve in body fluids such as saliva. Drawing on a detailed understanding of their structure and properties, Hill’s team has developed ‘smart’ bioactive glass formulations that release calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions to form fluorapatite minerals. 

The group has shown that the new fluoride-containing bioactive glasses release calcium phosphate and fluoride over 12 hours, the average time between teeth brushings. 

A perfect balance – working with your mouth’s pH

A healthy mouth has a neutral pH of around 7. Where the mouth is more acidic, the enamel on teeth begins to demineralise, which can lead to dental caries or cavities. This happens at around pH5. The bioactive glasses developed by the team dissolve almost ten times faster at pH5 than at pH7. In this way, the ‘smart’ bioactive glasses respond, delivering fluoride, calcium and phosphate, helping to protect the teeth and raise the pH. 

In further research, the group has shown that the glasses block exposed dentinal tubules (microscopic channels in the teeth). The glasses reduce fluid flow through the dentinal tubules. The apatite minerals occlude the tubules and may prevent bacteria entering the dentine, reducing tooth decay. 

The toothpaste remineralises enamel at more than twice the rate of other leading toothpastes and remineralisation treatments.

I am now passionate about BioMin toothpaste. Trialed it on myself first. I found I was sensitive to cold air when I had had whitening treatment, so I used BioMinF for 14 days and the sensitivity was improved enough for me to go on with the treatment. As a trial in the practice, I gave about 30 patients a sample and all gave positive feedback. Many have continued to buy it.
— Sam Davidson, dental hygienist, South East England

Taking the toothpaste to market

In 2014, Queen Mary set up BioMin Technologies Ltd, using £25,000 from the Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize which supports the commercialisation of materials science research. The company was co-founded by Professor Hill and Dr Gillam, to develop a remineralising sensitivity toothpaste, BioMinF®. In November 2017, BioMin launched the fluorine-free chloride version, BioMinC. 

Commercial success of BioMin Technologies Ltd 

Initial licensing option agreements on the fluoride bioactive glass patent generated sufficient income (approximately £50,000) to cover the costs of patent filing.

The new toothpaste launched in April 2016. Following the successful launch, BioMin raised a further £410,000 from investors. The company now generates revenue in excess of £500,000 per year from three sources:

  • Sales of toothpaste to global distributors (95% of sales are exported as the UK holds only 3-4% of the international toothpaste market)
  • Sale of bioactive glass to toothpaste manufacturers
  • Licensing fees for bioactive glass manufacture.

Availability around the world 

Manufacturing Licence agreements have been established in India, China, USA, Switzerland, Thailand and USA producing over 100,000 tubes of toothpaste per month. BioMin distribution agreements have been established in most European countries, Canada, East Africa and selected markets in the Middle and Far East. Negotiations for further markets are ongoing. 

Improving oral care through the slow release of fluorides

  • Six independent clinical trials have shown BioMinF to be more effective than other leading sensitivity toothpastes, including GSK’s NovaMin-based toothpaste and Colgate’s Pro-Relief
  • BioMinF is the first toothpaste to be accredited for both dentine hypersensitivity and tooth remineralisation by the Oral Health Foundation after a review by dental experts
  • From a survey of 436 users of the toothpaste, 52% said that it reduced their tooth sensitivity and 48% said that it was more effective than other sensitivity toothpastes they had tried

In April 2020, BioMinF toothpaste was featured in a BBC Four documentary How to Make, watched by over 300,000 people. This generated significant interest in the toothpastes and the materials science behind them. Within two hours of the documentary, more than 2,000 people visited the BioMin website to find out more and proceeded to buy the toothpaste online.


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