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  April 2, 2001

Dental Researchers Study Use of
Spage Age Material for New Teeth

UConn Health Center dentists are building new teeth out of a space-age material used successfully in high performance airplanes and luxury sailboats.

And they're looking for people to test them on.

The researchers are now studying the material, a fiber-reinforced composite, when it's used to build bridge teeth over dental implants.

"The material we're studying contains no metal," says Martin Freilich, of the Department of Prosthodontics at the Health Center, who is the principal investigator for the study. "It's strong and it looks really good. We've already used the material in dental bridges, and we found it works quite well."

Currently, dental prostheses are generally made out of porcelain bonded to metal. "We have been looking for something new for a long time. It's hard to make porcelain the right color, especially because you have to use opaque materials to cover up the metal substructure. Additionally, porcelain is so hard it can wear away the other teeth it touches," says Freilich. Unlike the metals used to make bridges over implants, the new material doesn't corrode, it's not toxic and can be repaired, he adds.

Use of the fiber-reinforced composite in dentistry has been pioneered by Freilich and his colleagues at the UConn School of Dental Medicine. Two members of this research group, Jon Goldberg and Charles Burstone, developed a method of making this type of fiber composite with vastly improved strength and bonding capacity. Anthony DiBenedetto of the Institute of Materials Science, University Professor emeritus, collaborated with them in the initial stages of the research.

The material is now manufactured by Jeneric/Pentron, a Wallingford, Conn., company that has collaborated with the Health Center faculty in developing the material.

Participation in the study is open to healthy, non-smoking adults who are missing all their teeth, or who are missing all of their upper teeth and their lower back teeth. People accepted into the study will receive dental implants and bridges or complete dentures at considerably reduced cost.

People who are accepted into the study must be able to afford the implant placement and prosthetic fees. "Because the dental treatment is part our study, it will cost $2,250, with $500 of this amount refunded later for participation at all recall examinations," says Freilich. "This is considerably less costly than if it were provided in a non-study setting."

He says age is not an important factor in relation to participation in the study. "Implants are appropriate for any adults missing teeth as long as they are in good health, so we are accepting participants from 20 to 80 years of age, as long as they meet the study criteria."

For more information on the clinical trial, contact the General Clinical Research Center at (860) 679-4995.

Kristina Goodnough