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.
|Biocompatibility||Material is compatible with dentition, oral mucosa and the entire body systems.|
|Adhere to tissues when necessary||Enables patient to eat and speak properly.|
|Easy to manipulate||Dental provider can easily manipulate material for fabrication or placement in the oral cavity.|
|Cleanable||Patient is able to keep material clean and free of plaque.|
|Repairable||Material can be repaired without tooth structure loss if fractured.|
|Fiscally responsible||Affordable to patient and dental provider.|
|Resistant to corrosion||Does not corrode when retained in the oral cavity.|
|Dimensionally stable||Keeps the same dimensions as when initially placed.|
|Minimal thermal and electrical conductivity||Does not conduct heat or electrical impulses which result in tooth pain.|
|Esthetically pleasing||Realistic and attractive appearance.|
|Tasteless||Does not have strong taste initially or with time, after placement.|
|Longevity||Last 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 Fabrication||Definition||Example|
|Direct||Direct restoration is fabricated directly in the oral cavity||Amalgam filling, composite filling, dental sealant|
|Indirect||Indirect restorations are fabricated using cast or study model replication or computers outside of the oral cavity.||Dental crown, dentures, bridges, inlays, onlays, veneers|