The Brave New World of Dental Materials

Dry mouth, gum disease may benefit from latest research.

Charles W Martin By Charles W Martin, DDS

Research is now under way at Louisiana State University's Health Sciences Center on what promises to be the next generation of dental restoration materials. These new fillings, veneers, and sealants may help people with diabetes or prediabetes combat two typical problems:

  • dry mouth
  • gum disease

The scientists at Louisiana State University have been granted nearly $1.7 million from the National Institutes of Health to spend the next four years developing new materials for dental fillings and cosmetic tooth restorations. They're trying to develop new dental composites, sealants, and bonding agents that are antibacterial, bioactive, and that release fluoride.

Today we do most restorations with products that are resin-based – made from plastic and glass materials. Often these resin-based products shrink once they're in place and secondary cavities develop around the area that has been filled.

This new research could be good news for anyone who has ever had a cavity because many people get secondary cavities at old filling sites. Bacteria are the root cause of these cavities, just as they are in gum disease.

Helping to Get Rid of the Damage of Dry Mouth

Gum disease isn't the only condition targeted by the research. Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a frequent side effect of high blood sugar. Because people who suffer from xerostomia lack saliva, their teeth are robbed of the minerals that help restore the enamel surface that is damaged by the acids in juices, soft drinks, and other beverages as well as the acids that the bacteria living in the mouth produce as they feed on starches and sugars that cling to teeth and gums. The result is often more cavities.

In fact tooth decay – cavities – is the most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults. Some 92 percent of the adult population ages 20 and up have had cavities in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Among adolescents the number is nearly 60 percent. For children under 12, 42 percent have had cavities in their primary teeth. This is despite all the advances in dental health care.

That's one of the reasons why what these researchers are trying to do is so exciting. By developing dental materials that include antibacterial and bioactive compounds, we may be able to reduce microbial activity in the mouth. I'm not the only one who thinks that as these new compounds are used for fillings, bonding, veneers, and sealants that they could help keep teeth strong and reduce the numbers of oral bacteria in the mouth so gum disease is less likely to get a foothold. That's something these researchers believe will happen as well. And anything that reduces the likelihood of gum disease is great. Because gum disease can interfere with diabetes control, it's possible that these new materials will be a major step forward for people who struggle with high blood sugar readings.

For more information about dental care for people who have diabetes, visit and Dr. Martin's blog,

To learn more about the two-way connection between diabetes and gum disease, check out the other columns here on dLife or Dr. Martin's book, Don't Sugar Coat It.

Read Dr. Charles Martin's bio here.

Read more of Dr. Martin's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition. 

Last Modified Date: July 01, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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