The German Research Foundation is funding a new research group in Dental Materials Science
How can dental fillings – such as fillings and crowns – be made longer? A new research group based at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Technische Universität (TU) Berlin plans to tackle this topic by using approaches from materials science and dentistry. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the composition and structure of a material’s texture interfaces and the pressures exerted on them. The interdisciplinary research group “InterDent” is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). It will receive seed funding of € 2.1 million over three years.
Restorative dentistry uses synthetic biomaterials such as ceramics, alloys, and composites to restore damaged teeth. These materials must withstand severe and repeated pressures in order to retain their ability to function for many years. The safe adhesion of the remaining healthy dental tissues is based on the creation of “interface zones”, three-dimensional structures consisting of different connected layers of varied composition, fine structure and properties. The areas in between are never as flexible as their natural counterparts. This is one of the reasons dental restoration often fails early and breaks off. DFG’s new research group – known as FOR2804 “InterDent” – is a collaborative effort involving medical experts and materials scientists. Partners also include Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), a research center for energy materials research, and the Max Planck Colloids and Facades Institute (MPI-KG), located in Potsdam. Researchers hope that a better understanding of the causes of dental-related structural weaknesses will pave the way towards more flexible interfacial areas.
“The research group is organized into four sub-projects and one comprehensive coordination project, which serves as a basis for close interaction between experts from materials science and dentistry in different institutes. The purpose of this interdisciplinary collaboration is to define the key parameters that can be used to predict the risk of deterioration and which can be implemented in Clinical practice, “explains the spokesperson for the research group, Dr. Paul Zaslansky, who is the project leader at the Charité Institute. Dentistry and oral and maxillofacial medicine. “Thanks to its close proximity to ultra-modern materials laboratories and distinguished dental expertise, the Berlin-Brandenburg region provides an ideal growth environment for inspiring collaborations and innovative results,” he adds.
The team’s goal is to create better dental materials by shining a light on the ways in which different materials interact with the surrounding tissues. One of the subprojects aims to predict the way dentin (the hard bone tissue that makes up the tooth’s core) changes over time, depending on the material used for the filling it is attached to. Using a non-destructive, highly sensitive, and high-precision technology, researchers will study the fine structure and chemical properties of dentin, tracking gradual changes over time as part of the aging process known as “hardening”. “We want to use this approach in order to develop a model of sclerotic dentin that will enable us to gain a better understanding of the changes in its structure and composition,” says Dr Ioana Mantovalo of HZB, who is leading the sub-project together with Dr. Zslanski.
Another subproject will focus on the structure and mechanical properties of the intermediate zone of natural teeth that are under particularly severe stress: the junction between dentin and surrounding mortar. While this structure is strong and remarkably flexible in cyclic loading, surprisingly little is known about its microstructure and mechanical properties. “We want to gain a better understanding of the structure and function of the junction areas in farm mammals and human teeth, and to compare younger and older teeth and teeth that have been subjected to variable mechanical stresses. This will enable us to derive general basic principles that contribute to the long-term fatigue resistance of the dentin and cementum junction which we will explore for structures Inspired by biology, “says Professor Claudia Flick, Chair of Materials Engineering at Technical University of Berlin and deputy spokesperson for the research group.
When mouth bacteria colonize tooth surfaces and biological materials used in restorative dentistry, they produce “biofilms”: a cohesive community of microorganisms that make up the slime layer. Dr. Cecil Bidan, Group Leader for the Department of Biomaterials MPI-KG and Sebastian Paris, Director of Research at the Charite Institute of Dentistry and Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine, says. “To do this, we will perform quantitative and systematic analyzes to determine the spatial and temporal development of specific bacteria in biofilms grown on different surfaces and in contact with dental treatments.”
The way in which teeth can be better isolated against bacteria after root canal treatments is the focus of InterDent’s fourth subproject. “By combining high-resolution imaging, digital image analysis, and mechanical test methods, we want to define parameters that are critical to creating a sealed interface between biomaterials and the root. We have many new ideas about how to lay the foundations for more sustainable root canal restoration,” she explains. Special Lecturer Dr. Christine Peter of the Department of Restorative and Preventive Dentistry, who is involved with Professor Flick in the leadership role of the joint venture on this project.
To overcome the shortcomings and limitations present in dental biomaterials, it will be necessary to utilize the available resources and samples in a coordinated manner, and raise a new generation of PhD researchers who will integrate the results into all sub-projects. The main objective of the coordination project is to create a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration – leading to a better understanding of the interdental areas with the ultimate goal of improving dental treatment.
Dr. Paul Zslansky
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