Interview: “As dental practitioners, we all want our work to last”
University of Queensland PhD student Dr Arosha Weerakoon was recently awarded first prize in Universities Australia’s annual Pitch it Clever competition. The competition challenges early career researchers to communicate their research in layman’s terms via video. Weerakoon won with her work on prolonging the bond between restorative material and teeth. In an interview with Dental Tribune International, she spoke in more detail about her work and future plans.
What was it that prompted you to investigate prolonging the bond between restorative material and teeth?
I think that, as dental practitioners, we all want our work to last. I understand that there are factors that we cannot control, such as patient habits and diet. However, if we can spend a bit of time thinking about exactly what properties our adhesive systems have, and then match them to the qualities of the tooth surface we want to bond to, ultimately, we could prolong the bond between restorative material and teeth.
Having worked as a dentist at the same private practice for over 12 years, I have started to gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Over the past 16 years, I have also noticed a great deal of variation in terms of outcomes, depending on the patient age and, in particular, cavity site. So, this is an issue close to my heart.
What were your methods and what were the most interesting results you found?
We examined the effect of patient age, depth of cavity and cavity site on dentinal collagen architecture and distribution. While the collagen distribution does vary with depth and site, age appears to have no effect. In contrast, collagen architecture does change as we age. The dentine in older adults has a tighter collagen weave compared with that in younger people.
When we investigated the mineral content and distribution in posterior teeth, we were also surprised to discover that there was more mineral in younger deep dentine than we had anticipated.
Both the changes to collagen and mineral distribution significantly affect your clinical outcomes, depending on which adhesive system you choose to use. These findings are supported by previously published work.
I think my work revisits older research. Our tools and techniques have been refined to a degree that means we can learn a lot more by using current research methods.
What could your research mean for the dental industry as a whole?
The end goal of my work is to help clinicians understand what surface they are bonding to and then help them to select a suitable adhesive system. Effectively, we need to customise our adhesive method to suit our patient’s needs, rather than extolling a single bonding agent as the gold standard.
Do you plan on taking further steps with your research, and if so, what are they?
Yes, we are looking at using some newer techniques to better understand both the mineral and collagen in dentine. We are also in the process of examining the effect of changes to mineral and collagen on adhesion. So, I guess, watch this space!
To watch the video pitch from Dr Weerakoon click the link below: