Methods used to measure and predict clinical biological responses to dental materials remain controversial, confusing, and to some extent, unsuccessful. The current paper reviews significant issues surrounding how we assess the biological safety of materials, with a historical summary and critical look at the biocompatibility literature. The review frames these issues from a U.S. perspective to some degree, but emphasizes their global nature and universal importance.
The PubMed database and information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, International Standards Organization, and American National Standards Institute were searched for prominent literature addressing the definition of biocompatibility, types of biological tests employed, regulatory and standardization issues, and how biological tests are used together to establish the biological safety of materials. The search encompassed articles published in English from approximately 1965–2011. The review does not comprehensively review the literature, but highlights significant issues that confront the field.
Years ago, tests for biological safety sought to establish material inertness as the measure of safety, a criterion that is now deemed naive; the definition of biocompatibility has broadened along with the roles for materials in patient oral health care. Controversies persist about how in vitro or animal tests should be used to evaluate the biological safety of materials for clinical use. Controlled clinical trials remain the single best measure of the clinical response to materials, but even these tests have significant limitations and are less useful to identify mechanisms that shape material performance. Practice-based research networks and practitioner databases are emerging as important supplements to controlled clinical trials, but their final utility remains to be determined.
Today we ask materials to play increasingly sophisticated structural and therapeutic roles in patient treatment. To accommodate these roles, strategies to assess, predict, and monitor material safety need to evolve. This evolution will be driven not only by researchers and manufacturers, but also by patients and practitioners, who want to use novel materials in new ways to treat oral disease.
Source: Dental Materials