dental engineering focuses on the design, manufacture and use of dental materials and devices. It incorporates the disciplines of chemistry, biology, engineering and physics. In particular, it aims at the replacement of carious tooth tissues with biocompatible synthetic restorative materials that display chemical and mechanical properties similar to the host tissue. Similarly, it seeks to replace lost dental structures by using autologous bone grafts or tissue free flap techniques.
The current state of the art in dentistry has focused on restoring carious teeth with a variety of materials such as direct composites, porcelains and resins and indirect restorations such as crowns and bridges. Despite their clinical success, these synthetic materials do not perform as well as natural teeth and have a limited lifespan due to their hostile oral environment. Therefore, there is a pressing need for more sophisticated and sustainable approaches to restore teeth and the oral-craniofacial region.
Increasingly, the success of modern dentistry requires support from engineering. This is evident in the proliferation of digital technologies such as intraoral scanning, CAD-CAM and 3D printing that have replaced traditional dental impressions sent to laboratory technicians for the fabrication of dental appliances and restorations; and in advances made possible by robotics, nano/biotechnology, artificial intelligence, organ-on-a-chip and advanced materials.