There are plenty of options for replacing missing teeth, but dental implants are by far the strongest, most durable, and most natural-looking option on the market. Dental implants can fill in a gap in your smile, repair a bad bite, and prevent nearby teeth from shifting, among other benefits.
And the best part is, they function just like your real teeth! They’re able to do this because, just like your real teeth, dental implants are anchored in your jaw bone. But instead of roots, dental implants are mounted on titanium screws that your jaw bone bonds to, a process called osseointegration.
But if osseointegration fails, or the implantation site becomes infected, the implant may need to be removed. Fortunately, the success rate for dental implants is very high. To increase this success rate even higher, scientists have been examining nanotechnology as an avenue for improvement.
Nanotechnology and Dental Implants
Nanotechnology refers specifically to engineering performed on a nano scale — that is, from 1 to 100 nanometers in size. (In case you aren’t awestruck by that scale yet: A nanometer is one billionth of a meter!)
Titanium has remained the biomedical metal of choice for more than sixty years due to its high biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion. Bone is able to bond to titanium, which is what makes it so ideal for use in dental implants. Titanium has its shortcomings, but there isn’t a better option available — or at least, not yet. This is a problem that nanotechnology researchers are hoping to solve.
There are three leading areas of research in this field: Ceramic coatings, surface functionalization, and surface topography.
Ceramic coatings are intended to mimic the mineral phase of bone tissue, making it easier for cells to attach and bone to form. Ceramic coatings have shown promising results in animal trials, including faster healing time and stronger bone formation. A coating on the implant also allows for the application of anti-inflammation agents to the surface of the implant, which could reduce or eliminate the need for post-surgery medications.
Surface functionalization refers to a method of coating dental implants using molecular grafting or chemical treatment in order to create hydrophilic surfaces (that is, surfaces that don’t repel water). Some scientists theorize that a hydrophilic implant surface will facilitate bone-to-implant contact, promoting faster integration.
Similarly, surface topography refers to a textured dental implant service. But while surface functionalization’s goal is a hydrophilic surface, surface topography instead aims for better mechanical interlocking — something that a rough surface has been shown to improve. For example, some experiments with surface topography have included large pores in the implant, allowing bone to grow into the pores, theoretically creating stronger interlocking.
Technology for the Future
Unfortunately, while nanotechnology holds the promise of even more effective dental implants, it is still experimental tech. It will be many years before these improved implants will be available commercially.
Luckily, dental implants are already an effective and safe option, even without the improvements of nanotechnology! Success rates for implantation are as high as 95%, even decades afterward. To find out if you’re a candidate for dental implants, call at (619) 299-5925 or contact us online.