ARRA IMPACT REPORT:
Dental Restorative Materials
Public Health Burden
Even today, virtually everyone in the U.S. is at risk for tooth decay, the most common chronic childhood disease. It is five times more common than asthma and accounts for nearly 30% of all healthcare expenditures in children. The materials most commonly used to restore decayed teeth can require replacement as frequently as every six years, resulting in increased cost and risk associated with repeated dental treatments. Therefore, increasing the durability of dental restorative materials is a high priority for public health, and would produce healthcare cost savings as well.
ARRA funds supported research toward a new generation of materials, including nanocomposites and smart self-healing materials, with enhanced adhesive bonding to the tooth surface, improved durability, better aesthetics, and maximum biocompatibility.
- One grant combined innovative, biologically-inspired polymer design and synthesis, fundamental studies of bonding, and an elegant approach to composite processing, to generate new high-strength composite materials with self-healing capacity.1
- Another focused on better understanding the interface between the tooth and the restorative material; a critical factor in the premature failure of restorations is recurrent tooth decay at this interface.2
- A third grant supported the development of new nano-sized materials that, because of their small sizes and high reactivity, are expected to have a range of clinical applications, including tooth remineralization, tooth desensitization, and enhanced dental restorative properties.3
The three ARRA projects, in combination with their associated parent projects, have generated more than 40 research articles as of August 2012, including the following:
- Marine mussels were found to develop an extraordinary ability to create a bond with self-healing properties that maintains adhesion to solid surfaces in a wet, turbulent environment. ARRA-supported investigators drew upon this example and identified a novel strategy for crosslinking metal into a synthetic polymer network, and demonstrated that such a network indeed displays the strong, elastic, and self-healing properties of an ideal adhesive.1
- The interface between the tooth and the restorative material (filling) is often the site of dental restorative failure. Researchers provided a detailed profile of current adhesive performance when exposed to water in the environment, and identified additives that improve performance of adhesive formulations and thus enhance restorative performance.2
- Investigators designed a technique for producing better dispersed fluoride-containing nanoparticles. The resulting spray can be used as a more effective agent in rinses or topical applications for prevention of tooth decay, and the new approach has wide-ranging applications for drug delivery of other nanoparticles.
Contributing NIH Institutes & Centers
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)