Oral and Craniofacial Sciences Faculty

Mary Walker, D.D.S., Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research:

-- Head and neck cancer therapeutic radiation effects on tooth structure.
Even though radiotherapy will save the life of many head and neck cancer patients, the quality of life for these patients can deteriorate quickly. Following radiotherapy, the patients are susceptible to a severe, debilitating destruction of tooth structure and associated loss of masticatory function. The objective of Dr. Walker’s research is to understand if there is a link between the severity of the post-radiation dental lesions and radiation dose to the tooth. The investigation has both patient-based and laboratory-based aspects. To date, our group is the first to calculate individual tooth radiation dose and correlate with post-radiation tooth damage. Our clinical research data suggests there is a critical tooth radiation dose threshold of 60 Gy above which tooth damage occurs at 10 times greater odds (Walker et al. 2011).  Based on the clinical outcomes, the next phase of our research is focused on understanding the mechanism of radiotherapy-induced dentition breakdown (NIH/NIDCR R01DE021462, Walker & Wang).  The research objectives are to evaluate the effects of radiation on the mechanical properties, chemical structure, and functional relationships of dentin, enamel, and the DEJ.  Understanding the altered structure/function characteristics of radiated teeth should lead to improved preventive and restorative treatments for head and neck cancer patients post-radiation.

-- Evaluation of physiologic function on filled, polymeric dental restorative materials.
Research efforts have been directed toward simulating the potential synergistic interaction between oral conditions and occlusal cyclic loading parameters. Using this model should help identify possible functional changes in the morphologic, chemical, and mechanical properties of the restorative material/tooth interface.

-- Impression accuracy

  • Elastomeric impression materials: Understanding how factors such as lack of moisture control and impression disinfection may affect dimensional accuracy and detail reproduction.
  • Digital impressions: With the increasing use of CAD/CAM technology in restorative dentistry, digital (optical) impressions will be an important component of clinical dentistry.  Just as with conventional impressions, it is important to identify and understand what factors affect accuracy and ease of implementation. 

Mary Walker, D.D.S., Ph.D.Professor, Associate Dean for Research - Graduate Programs

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