In the 1940's, it was observed that silicate restorative cements were seldom associated with secondary caries. Fissure sealants, designed to protect caries-prone surfaces, appeared in the 1960's. The 1970's and 1980's have seen an increasing emphasis on the use of dental materials for preventive purposes. Glass ionomers, the modern version of silicates, release fluoride and have been available for some time. Polymeric materials that release various therapeutic agents are currently under development for use in topical anesthetic, endodontic, prosthodontic, and periodontal applications. An attachable membrane-reservoir device for oral fluoride delivery will soon be available for general clinical use. Several fluoride-releasing filling and adhesive resins have recently been marketed. These materials are the leading edge of a new class of preventive materials that serve as controlled-release and/or site-specific sources of therapeutic agents. This trend is expected to continue, and the near future should see the introduction of additional oral sustained-delivery systems for use in periodontal and other applications.
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