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Fillings That Last Forever!

Well, maybe not “forever”~ But if Jirun Sun, PhD continues the current track of his research, we will all be the benefactors of tooth-colored dental fillings that will exist in the mouth much longer than they currently do. He and his research team at the ADA Foundation Research Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland are currently working on a project called, “Novel Dental Resin Composite” with a five-year grant that will improve the longevity of the fillings that we dentists are using to restore cavities resulting from decay.

All dental filling material, whether they are silver amalgam , tooth-colored composites or even gold and porcelain, have their advantages and disadvantages. There is no “perfect” dental filling. The composite resins that we are using now began in 1962 as an invention by Dr. Rafael Bowen. They have served us very well but are limited in their life span. On average, they only last about 8 years and then have to be replaced due to fracturing or new decay forming around the edges.

There are three major parts to a tooth-colored composite resin: 1.) The resin network, 2.) the filler and 3.)the coupling agent. The resin network is made up of chemical ester groups with can decompose or be degraded over time by water and enzymes in our saliva. The new composite by Dr. Sun eliminates these components and the research is showing that they are resistant to this same degradation! The filler component has always shown signs of microcracks and fractures which are difficult to detect. Once we finally do see them, it is too late and the filling is in need of replacement. Dr. Sun’s new composite resin is self-healing without any external intervention by a dentist! The third major improvement over existing composite resins is with the coupling agents. The new components will be able to sense environmental change and release antimicrobial medications when needed.

Although use of this new composite may still be a few years away, the preliminary results and very promising and a very good sign for the future of dentistry. So the next time that we say that you need a filling replaced, and you tell us that you want to wait a few months to see if it will fix itself…it may not be so far-fetched after all!

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