Colour and chemical stability of bismuth oxide in dental materials with solutions used in routine clinical practice

Josette Camilleri, Joseph Borg, Denis Damidot, Enrico Salvadori, Peter Pilecki, Paul Zaslansky, Brian W. Darvell

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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Bismuth(III) oxide is included as a radio-opacifier in dental materials, including hydraulic silicate cements, the material of choice for several endodontic procedures. It has been implicated in tooth discoloration after contact with endodontic irrigants, in particular NaOCl solution, To date, there has been no work on the chemistry: all reports have been of clinical findings only. The purpose now was to report the reactions leading to colour change from Bi2O3 in contact with solutions used in routine endodontic practice. Ten-gram portions of Bi2O3 were immersed in either water, NaOH, NaCl, NaOCl or HCl solution, either in the dark or exposed to visible light, and samples retrieved at 1, 4, 12 and 24 weeks. After washing, these were exposed to either added CO2 or not, for 1 week while drying, and under the same dark or light conditions. Changes in appearance were monitored by photography and colour measurement, and chemically by X-ray diffraction and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. 24-week material was studied using electron paramagnetic resonance and Raman spectroscopy; NaOCl-treated material was also examined by scanning electron microscopy. With water, NaCl and NaOH, bismuth subcarbonate was formed. With or without added carbon dioxide, discoloration occurred from pale yellow to light brown when exposed to light, and to a lesser extent in the dark, intensifying with time. In contrast, exposure to NaOCl rapidly formed a dark brown-black sodium bismuthate. With HCl, white BiOCl was formed. Bi2O3 is not at all inert in this context as is commonly believed, denying its principle of use. Previously unreported solution-mediated reaction occurs readily even in water and NaCl solution, forming new compounds that discolour. In contact with NaOCl sodium bismuthate is formed; severe darkening occurs rapidly. The reactivity is such that Bi2O3 is not indicated for dental materials and should be withdrawn from use.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0240634
JournalPLOS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020


  • Bismuth/chemistry
  • Color
  • Dental Materials/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrochloric Acid/chemistry
  • Light
  • Sodium Chloride/chemistry
  • Sodium Hydroxide/chemistry
  • Sodium Hypochlorite/chemistry
  • Solutions/chemistry
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • X-Ray Diffraction


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