-- Head and neck cancer therapeutic radiation effects on tooth structure.
Even though radiotherapy will save the life of many head and neck cancer patients, the quality of life for these patients can deteriorate quickly. Following radiotherapy, the patients are susceptible to a severe, debilitating destruction of tooth structure and associated loss of masticatory function. Dr. Walker has worked with a research team funded by NIDCR (R01DE021462, Walker & Wang) with a focus on understanding the mechanism of radiotherapy-induced dentition breakdown. The investigation has included both patient-based and laboratory-based aspects. To date, our group is the first to calculate individual tooth radiation dose and correlate with post-radiation tooth damage. Our clinical research data indicates there is a critical tooth radiation dose threshold of 60 Gy above which tooth damage occurs at 10 times greater odds (Walker et al. 2011). Based on those results, the US Oncology Network updated their radiotherapy treatment guidelines and threshold limits for teeth during treatment for head and neck cancer. Additional related research objectives include evaluating the effects of radiotherapy on the mechanical properties, chemical structure, and functional relationships of dentin, enamel, and the DEJ with several resultant publications (see list).
-- Evaluation of physiologic function on filled, polymeric dental restorative materials.
Research efforts have been directed toward simulating the potential synergistic interaction between oral conditions and occlusal cyclic loading parameters. Using this model should help identify possible functional changes in the morphologic, chemical, and mechanical properties of the restorative material/tooth interface.
-- Impression accuracy
Elastomeric impression materials: Understanding how factors such as lack of moisture control and impression disinfection may affect dimensional accuracy and detail reproduction.
Digital impressions: With the increasing use of CAD/CAM technology in restorative dentistry, digital (optical) impressions will be an important component of clinical dentistry. Just as with conventional impressions, it is important to identify and understand what factors affect accuracy and ease of implementation.