Why should we study about dental materials ?

Dentistry is a science which requires a great knowledge required for diagnosing the clinical problems accurately and framing a treatment plan which best fits the requirement of patient. The dentist should be well aware about the physical and chemical properties of the material that is being used in the intraoral as well as extra oral environment of the patient. Many tools and materials are needed in dental practice which seem too vast to learn about and use them appropriately.

 As a first year or a second year dental student, you might be disinclined to study about the dental materials. “Why on earth do we have to study about these compositions of cements and the amalgam when we even don’t know their use?”
, “ What difference does it make whether I know that water:powder ratio of type III dental stone is 0.28-0.30 or not?”, “Oh God! Had I known this that I have to study all these nonsense if I study dentistry before, I would have never chosen dentistry”, etc. These might be the things going through your mind right now.
Let’s see some points which will make you feel that, “Dental materials is not really boring and useless subject  as I thought before and it’s going to determine how good a dentist I will become later. So, I’ve got to study and know about these things” How good will that be?
1.  You are morally and ethically bound
You can’t simply use the materials whichever are available without knowing their properties and the pros and cons of using it in others’ body. The consequences can be dire even if we inadvertently use bio-incompatible materials which disposes the patient to the risk of other hazards and systemic pathologies. Hence, it is always better to be careful beforehand for judicious selection of the dental material which best fits the need of the patient. I don’t think anyone would enjoy being sued for negligence. Furthermore, it is our moral duty to act for the welfare of the patient. We should never forget that Latin phrase “ Primum non- nocere”  which we were taught in bioethics class which means, “First, do not harm”. Simply stated, “If you can’t make the patient’s condition better, don’t harm the patient.”

2.You can increase your efficiency and success rate
If you know exactly which material has greater compressive strength and which is more likely to fracture under normal physiological masticatory forces, you can choose the material which has superior physical properties for restoration. This decreases the rates of failure of treatment. This way you could make the restoration last longer and more importantly, the patient will be satisfied and will be more than happy to choose you for any other treatment in the future.

You can know exactly how many minutes do you have before the material sets and at what speed you need to work. You could save time by knowing how much time you have got to do other works before the plaster sets after pouring plaster in the impression.

3.You can teach your patients and provide them with options
Everybody likes when they are given options. It makes them feel good that they have got the freedom to choose whatever they like. Haven’t you noticed that you’d like to go to the restaurant that serves a wide range of dishes rather than one just serving few items? No matter whether you eat the dish that was available only in the former and not in the latter one, but you still choose the former one. That’s why you people love to answer multiple choice questions rather than subjective questions as you are given options.
Let’s see how you can give options to your patients if you have a good knowledge of dental materials. You can give them options regarding the strength, esthetics, duration of treatment and most importantly: cost of the treatment. “Mrs. Laura! would you like to have your cavity filled with amalgam or composite? Umm with amalgam these are the pros and these are the cons and these for the composite. This way you could let the patients choose themselves what kind of treatment they want to have and in many cases you can persuade them to choose even the costlier option. Isn’t that nice?

4.You can minimize the wastage of resources
When you know the exact water:powder ratio, or proportion of two pastes to be mixed, you will not waste a lot of resources. Remember how many times have you mixed dental stone with a lot of water and had to add some extra more dental stone powder to make the mixture of adequate composition. Wastage of resources cost you a lot and you have to compensate that through your patients which is not desirable.

5.You can  choose the best dental  material supplier
When you know the composition and quality of each of the materials , you could choose the best buy among a horde of suppliers. You could not be defrauded by a poor quality product manufacturer just claiming their product to be the best. You could test the quality of the material on you own and decide what its real quality is. Why should you pay the extra money for a particular brand if two products are identical with same composition and properties?  In this way you could minimize the input cost in your dental practice.

6.You can offer quality services at competitive rates
When you have minimized the input cost, reduced the wastage and could offer more choices to your patients, you could provide quality care at competitive rates. There is no way to stop your dental practice from growing more day by day once you could provide a wide range of quality services at competitive rates.

How do you feel about studying some properties of dental materials right now?

If you find these things useful to you, you might as well share this with your fellow students or dentists. Have fun !