Zinc oxide eugenol is a material that is formed when zinc oxide and eugenol are mixed together. Once the two substances are combined a reaction takes place and the result is a rather hard, yet pliable paste. Additives are then mixed into the paste to create a filling, or cement that can be used in various dental applications, such as teeth impression, temporary root canal fillings and cosmetic procedures. Zinc oxide eugenol can also be employed as an antimicrobial agent in paint. This helps to prevent organisms such as bacteria from undermining the paint once it has been applied to a surface.
Eugenol is a pale, oily substance that is distilled from essential oils such as cinnamon and nutmeg oil, but most notably, clove oil. Typically used in dentistry, it can also be found in some perfumes and plastics as well as antioxidants. It is also used as a local anesthetic. Although eugenol has been used by dentists for many years, it can sometimes cause irritation and hypersensitivity in some patients when applied to the inside of the mouth. Derivatives of eugenol have actually been known to attract the male orchid bee and have been used as an aid to collect the species for study purposes.
Zinc oxide is a naturally occurring compound, however, because of the commercial demand, much of the substance is now synthetically produced. It has a powdery consistency and is found in materials such as glass, paint, ceramics and batteries, among others. Zinc oxide has a number of medical uses as well, from inclusion in antibacterial medications and surgical tape, to soothing burns and minor skin irritation. It is also used in some cigarette filters as well, apparently having the ability to extract the adverse compounds found in tobacco without significantly affecting the flavor of the cigarette.
A dentist will often pack a tooth with zinc oxide eugenol several days before a filling. Due to the compound’s anesthetic and antibacterial properties, inflammation and pain may be reduced, especially if the decay is extensive. Zinc oxide eugenol is also used to make impressions of the mouth and surrounding teeth when constructing dentures. The pastes are dispensed from two separate tubes, one containing zinc oxide and mineral oil, and the other eugenol and rosin. The oil, which can also be vegetable in nature, helps to reduce the potential irritant action of eugenol. Rosin is a type of resin extracted from pine trees.