Dental Materials Review

Dental materials should have certain characteristics to be effective in dental health maintenance. Characteristics which are particularly important are safety and compatability with oral tissues (non-irritating), as well as longevity (Table 1). Dental materials and devices are regulated for safety and efficacy by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Efficacy can be defined as the ability of a dental material to function as was intended within the oral cavity. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidelines for safety to those in the workplace Specifically, OSHA enforces the completion of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) when addressing dental materials. These are documents with a description of pertinent data, such as the chemicals in a product, safe handling and emergency procedures.

Table 1. Dental Materials Ideal Characteristics.

BiocompatibilityMaterial is compatible with dentition, oral mucosa and the entire body systems.
Adhere to tissues when necessaryEnables patient to eat and speak properly.
Easy to manipulateDental provider can easily manipulate material for fabrication or placement in the oral cavity.
CleanablePatient is able to keep material clean and free of plaque.
RepairableMaterial can be repaired without tooth structure loss if fractured.
Fiscally responsibleAffordable to patient and dental provider.
Resistant to corrosionDoes not corrode when retained in the oral cavity.
Dimensionally stableKeeps the same dimensions as when initially placed.
Minimal thermal and electrical conductivityDoes not conduct heat or electrical impulses which result in tooth pain.
Esthetically pleasingRealistic and attractive appearance.
TastelessDoes not have strong taste initially or with time, after placement.
LongevityLast long term.

Dental restorations can be classified by the type of fabrication used to create them. For instance, some restorations, such as a composite incisal fillings, are fabricated in the oral cavity. Other restorations, such as a dental crown, are fabricated outside the mouth and then placed in the oral cavity at a later time (Table 2).

Table 2. Dental Materials Ideal Characteristics.

Location of FabricationDefinitionExample
DirectDirect restoration is fabricated directly in the oral cavityAmalgam filling, composite filling, dental sealant
IndirectIndirect restorations are fabricated using cast or study model replication or computers outside of the oral cavity.Dental crown, dentures, bridges, inlays, onlays, veneers