“Nano” is a term being increasingly used in marketing of dental products. A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter (10-9 m), about 100.000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Nanotechnology is the application of processes on the nanoscale to create e.g. materials with tailor-made properties.

Nanoparticles are nano-objects with at least one dimension between 1 and 100 nanometers. Such particles behave differently than larger ones, partly due to the high surface/volume ratio. Today, the main application of nanoparticles in dentistry is to be passive fillers in restorative materials, represented by the nanohybrids and nanocomposites. Still, there is lack of long-term clinical data of “nanorestoratives”. It appears that they represent an evolution rather than a quantum leap.

Some materials include nanostructures with active functions; one example is “nanosilver” used as an antibacterial agent. It is likely that the application of active and “intelligent” nanostructures will increase, e.g. self-assembling mineral structures to obtain remineralisation.

Nanoparticles may cross biological barriers, which could represent a potential biological risk, but this property could also be beneficial, for example for targeted drug delivery. 

Today’s use of nanotechnology in dentistry is simple, but there is a formidable potential in diagnostics, prevention, and restoration of damaged dental tissue.