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Federal Grant to Fund Development of Dental Fillings that Self-Heal, Fight Cavity-Causing Bacteria

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The American Dental Association and the ADA Foundation today announced that the foundation’s Anthony Volpe Research Center (VRC) received a five-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to develop new resin composite dental fillings. The grant started on Sept. 1 and the first year’s funding is $450,000. NIDCR is a part of the National Institutes of Health.

VRC scientists plan to use the grant money to research and develop new polymers that are BPA-free and not susceptible to enzymatic or hydrolytic degradation. They also hope to establish self-healing systems to significantly extend the life of composites, and to formulate smart antibacterial components.

"All the members of our team, including Drs. Rafael Bowen, Gary Schumacher, Drago Skrtic and myself, are excited by this grant." said principal investigator, Jirun Sun, Ph.D. "Our overall goal is to make new systems that exceed the performance of current commercially used materials. Ultimately, the new systems will double the service life of tomorrow’s dental composites."

Dentists in the United States currently place more than 122 million composite dental fillings every year. But the average lifetime of those composites is only eight years. Current composite filling technology is nearly 50 years old.

"There have been major advances over the past decade in chemistry, microbiology, imaging, and other potentially important areas," said Dr. Martha Somerman, NIDCR director. "Let’s get the right people talking to each other and see if it’s possible to double the service life of tomorrow’s dental composites."

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The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 159,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit ADA.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website MouthHealthy.org