Alternative co-initiators for photocurable dental resins: polymerisation, quantum yield of conversion and cytotoxicity

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Objective: Cyclic acetals such as are naturally occurring compounds capable of acting as co-initiators during free-radical polymerisation, and potentially serve to offer non-allergic and biologically less toxic alternatives to conventional (tertiary) amines. The current study aimed to evaluate the polymerisation efficiency and potential toxicity of cyclic acetals compared with conventional photoinitiator systems in photocurable dental resins.

Methods: Both, 1,3 benzodioxole (BZD) and piperonyl alcohol (PA) were used in 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 6.0 mol% concentrations. Whereas, N-phenyl glycine (NPG) was utilised in 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 mol% concentrations for photopolymerisation of an unfilled model resin system, BisGMA and TEGDMA (1:1 mass %), involving three separate camphorquinone (CQ) concentrations of 0.5 (Low), 1.0 (Intermediate) and 1.5 (High) mol%. Conventional tertiary amines; ethyl-4-dimethyamino benzoate (EDMAB) and dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate (DMAEMA) were utilised for comparison. Real-time degree of conversion (DC, %) was evaluated using Fourier transform near-infra-red spectroscopy and quantum yield of conversion of CQ was calculated using UV-Vis spectroscopy. Cytotoxicity of NPG and cyclic acetals were assessed using MTT to determine metabolic activity of human dental pulp cells (HDPCs).

Results: The cyclic acetals were capable of facilitating free radical polymerisation as co-initiators at all three CQ concentrations. Furthermore, the use of NPG as a co-initiator resulted in post-irradiation DC (%) that were comparable to both EDMAB and DMAEMA for all CQ concentrations. Alternative compounds facilitated the hydrogen abstraction process, which provided high conversion of CQ molecules. Quantum yield increased from 0.009 ± 0.0001 (0.5 mol%) to 0.03 ± 0.006 (6.0 mol%), and 0.01 ± 0.0003 (0.5 mol%) to 0.04 ± 0.001 (6.0 mol%), for respective BZD and PA formulations involving 1.0 mol% CQ. The use of NPG led to relatively higher quantum yield values (Up to 0.09 ± 0.007 at 4.0 mol%), though it exhibited competitive effects in absorbing blue light, which might be attributed to the photolytic degradation of NPG and the formation of N-methylaniline. MTT assay indicated alternative co-initiators to be comparatively less cytotoxic than EDMAB and CQ. Relative metablic activity of HDPCs treated with BZD, PA, and NPG eluates were 58.3 ± 15.7, 57.5 ± 17.4 and 64.6 ± 12.2 %, when compared with untreated HDPCs group (Control), respectively. Exposure to DMAEMA-based eluate led to relative metabolic activity (60.0 ± 0.5 %) that was comparable to that of cyclic acetals. Treatment with neat model resin eluate displayed the highest relative reduction in metabolic activity (28.9 ± 22.4) (P < 0.05), suggesting bisGMA and TEGDMA monomers played significant role in the overall cytotoxicity of photocurable systems involving HDPCs.

Significance: Cyclic acetals were capable of facilitating photo-induced free radical polymerisation reactions with relatively less cytotoxicity compared with their amine counterparts, which might realise reduced cytotoxicity of photocurable materials used for dentistry and biomaterial applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1330-1343
JournalDental Materials
Issue number8
Early online date21 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2022


  • Absorption coefficient
  • Benzodioxole
  • Camphorquinone
  • Co-initiators
  • Cytotoxicity
  • MTT
  • Molar absorptivity
  • N-phenyl glycine
  • Piperonyl alcohol
  • Quantum yield


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