The History and Development of the Dental Biomaterials Division

In 1940, Department of Dental Biomaterials was established under the auspices of Dean William Hopkins Crawford who was appointed in 1939. In 1924, while at the University of Tennessee, he began his study in dental materials and by 1928 he had established what was recognized as one of the finest laboratories in the nation for the testing of dental materials. Dr. Crawford also worked on such a project at Columbia University. When Dr. Crawford came to Indiana University School of Dentistry, he brought with him the valuable knowledge he had gained from his work in this field. This experience proved invaluable in the selection of instruments and general equipping of such a laboratory.

A physical chemist was a necessity to a laboratory of this type. He was of prime importance because of his work in the field of colloids and plastics and he was looked upon for revolutionary developments in these fields. For this purpose an outstanding physical chemist from Indiana University, Ralph Phillips, was appointed to the faculty. Mr., Phillips was to spend his entire time in research and development of restorative materials. At this time there were no research activities in this area and the course in Dental Materials was a rather superficial one. Through the efforts of Mr. Phillips and his staff, the department and its work has been vastly improved. When Dean Crawford resigned in 1946, Mr. Phillips was appointed as head of the department.

Through a period of years up to 1951, when the department was greatly expanded, research equipment was gradually added. This included equipment for a research project analyzing dimensional changes in setting of amalgam, polymer restorative materials and dental cements. In addition, another research project analyzed the temperature changes during the exothermic setting of dental restorative materials. For measuring temperature and slight changes in temperature, the dental materials laboratory was exceptionally well equipped with a battery of potentiometer, pyrometers, thermocouple and thermometers.

Since the initial organization, one of the prime functions of the department has been to teach both undergraduate and graduate students, the techniques and utilization of materials. Another prime function of the department is to carry on an intensive research program. Included in the present research activities are mechanical properties of bone, enamel and dentin; thermal stresses in dental ceramics; dental polymer composite processing and ceramic processing.