22 Oct 20

Dr Tie Sing Fong, who carried out research into BioMin® F for his PhD, has won a prestigious national award for his work in his home country of Malaysia. We caught up with him at his busy periodontal clinic in Sibu, to find out his thoughts on BioMin F.

Dr Tie, can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in the city of Sibu, Sarawak. This part of Malaysia is located on the Borneo Island which is greener and more serene than the Malaysian mainland. Recently in August, my wife and I welcomed a new baby girl into the family.

Where are you working at the moment?

Currently, I am a periodontologist in Sibu with the Malaysian Ministry of Health, where I have been since the completion of my postgraduate study in October 2018. The majority of my work involves treating patients with severe periodontal diseases and patients requesting dental implants.

What has been your dental career to date?

I began my career as a dentist in 2010. After five years of service with the Malaysian Ministry of Health, I was offered a scholarship to do my specialist training abroad. At that point, the whole state of Sarawak had only one periodontologist, which prompted me to choose periodontology over other avenues.

What did your PhD in London involve?

When I did my undergraduate training at Queen Mary University, London from 2005 to 2010, the new Dental Institute was still under construction and was only due to complete in 2012. So, when another opportunity arose, I applied to return to QMUL in 2015 to experience the new Institute which is said to be the most advanced in UK. There, I met with Dr David Gillam and Prof Robert Hill who introduced me to their work with BioMin to treat dentine hypersensitivity. It captivated me, and I wanted to explore more.

My thesis was on ‘The influence of different bioactive glass content (in BioMin) on hydraulic conductance and tubule occlusion’. It investigated whether changing the concentration of bioactive glass in toothpaste to either 0%, 2.5%, 5.0%, 7.5%, 10.0% or 15.0% would have any effect in reducing hypersensitivity. The study concluded that 5.0% loading has close to optimum outcome.

How did you carry out your research?

The entire study was conducted at the laboratory in QMUL. The practical aspect took roughly a year while the planning and write-up took another year. I used extracted, caries-free human molars, collected from patients attending the dental clinic in Malaysia.

Why did you choose to study the problem of dentine hypersensitivity?

Dentine hypersensitivity is a very common symptom with reported prevalence as high as 52% in the UK. Even in Malaysia, at least at the place where I work, dentine hypersensitivity is one of the main complaints raised by patients. It is not only difficult to diagnose but also challenging to treat. It strikes to me that if there is an effective over-the-counter anti-sensitivity toothpaste, life would be a lot simpler for both the clinicians and the patients.

Who supervised your PhD?

Dr David Gillam was my main supervisor. My other supervisor was Professor Robert Hill. Both of them were amazing. They were very helpful and assisted me in whatever way they could. Please tell me about your prize and the competition that you entered Back in April 2019, I took part in a poster competition at the annual National (Malaysia) Oral Health Research Conference. A total of over 20 participants took part in this National Level Competition. I was fortunate to win the first prize.

Do you feel that bioactive glass, like that in BioMin, has an important part to play in the treatment of hypersensitivity and remineralisation of lost tooth enamel?

The bioactive glass is the main component in BioMin that occludes the dentinal tubules as seen under the scanning electron microscopes. Blocking the tubules reduces the amount of fluid or stimuli from passing through. I am convinced of this from my research. Although I did not investigate remineralisation of lost tooth enamel in my study, the literature does show that bioactive glass promotes enamel remineralisation.

Your research took place in the lab; do you believe it is reflected in patients’ experience?

The laboratory results of the study were solid and convincing. Thus I do feel it is effective in humans to a certain level, especially those subjects presenting with mild to moderate hypersensitivity. Its true clinical effectiveness however may need to be evaluated in human trials. I understand that other products, like bonding agents and composite filling materials containing bioactive glasses are also in development.

Do you see them as a real innovation in dentistry?

That would without doubt be an amazing innovation that would benefit everyone. It is only a matter of time before such materials become reality.

Now that you are back home in Malaysia, what are your future plans?

I have dedicated the past 15 years to get to where I am now in my career. As of now, my focus is on the family.

In order for Dr Tie to evaluate the benefits of BioMin F on his patients in Sibu, BioMin Technologies has sent him some samples. He will be reporting his findings back to us in due course.