It’s safe to say that Jeffrey Stansbury has a healthy obsession with understanding the mechanisms of how things work. As a polymer chemist with 30 years of experience working with dental materials, Stansbury strives to constantly improve the materials that dentists use on a daily basis. How does one broaden their understanding of the numerous characteristics that make up impressions, fillings, crowns and the variety of other materials that currently exist? Lab time.
Stansbury’s lab has developed analytical techniques to help better understand how materials function, specifically under stress. Because of this, Stansbury and his team are able to work with materials in a rational manner, identify deficiencies and see where challenges exist so that improvements to materials may be made or even design new resources from the ground up. Stansbury notes, “The whole idea is that you are relevant. Ideally, there should be a practical use for the fundamental information that you are generating in your lab. It’s encouraging to see ideas you hatch in the lab turn into products that improve the dental industry.” The University’s Technology Transfer Office has already patented an innovative polymeric material from Stansbury’s lab that has been developed into the N’Durance composite restorative marketed by Septodont.
The oral environment is a challenging one. Stansbury admits, “We can’t control everything.” However, Stansbury and his team have managed to design a system of photopolymerization that induces phase separation, where homogeneous monomer mixtures are converted into heterogeneous polymeric materials with internal interfaces capable of a stress relieving mechanism, which results in a more robust type of material in terms of dental adhesion. Essentially, Stansbury and his team have developed a product that is less technique sensitive and that yields better results for everyone.
Jeffrey Stansbury’s team is at the forefront of polymer science. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded them with a million dollar Challenge Grant in 2009, which will be used to develop a more reliable dental adhesive material. A student from the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine conducted some of the preliminary work on that project along with an international graduate student in a prime example of the type of collaboration that is possible on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Stansbury sends dental students who work in his lab to national and international meetings to present their work and they contribute to peer reviewed technical papers. It’s exciting, after all, to be one of the influential labs responsible for making a difference in the dental materials knowledge base and to be able to share scientific discoveries with the world.