A team of researchers at the University of Kansas is hoping to curb tooth decay – while saving dental patients thousands of dollars – by working to improve the material used by dentists to fill cavities.
Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Bioengineering Research Center Paulette Spencer and Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Jennifer Laurence received a $1.8 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study enhancements to the polymer material used in fillings.
The two are leading a team of experts at KU’s Bioengineering Research Center to solve a problem that came about in the mid-1980s. Concerns about small amounts of mercury in the metal material that had been used to fill cavities for more than a hundred years led the dental industry to seek new options. Dentists switched to a plastic polymer filling that is safer, but less durable. The polymer lasts an average of 5.7 years compared with metal fillings that typically hold up for decades.