Dental implants have been the golden standard of tooth replacement for decades. With proper care and maintenance, dental implants can last a lifetime. However, as with all implants, dental implants are susceptible to infection and 3-5% of implants experience catastrophic failure and must be replaced.
Recently researchers have been pushing for a new kind of dental implant, one that can inherently stave off infection without the need for strict maintenance from its owner. Just how viable is this new technology? Here are three different implants that are attempting to push the envelope.
The Israeli bio-tech start up NanoLock has been hard at work developing a dental implant that stands above the rest. Many antibiotic implants kill bacteria through the use of chemicals. While these chemicals are generally effective at killing the bacteria overtime they can leach out into the body. NanoLock kills bacteria mechanically through a tiny polymer (roughly 1% of the implant) that damages the walls of the bacteria. It’s basically a knife so tiny it can cut bacteria up! The dead bacteria is then trapped in the implant so that it does not leach out into the body.
3-D Printed Teeth
3-D printing is quickly becoming a powerful tool in the medical profession. Researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have developed an antimicrobial plastic that is infused with quaternary ammonium salts that will soon be able to be printed directly from a printer. Today, dental implants require that molds be taken of your teeth in order to create an implant that fits properly. Oftentimes, the new implants still have to shaved and sized by a dentist to insure a fantastic and natural looking fit. 3-D printing will potentially allow the entire procedure to be done in a single visit with minimal resizing–and the resulting implants will kill bacteria to boot!
Researchers at UCLA have proposed that nanodiamonds, tiny particles formed as byproducts of diamond refining and mining, might be used to help dental implants integrate with bone. These nanodiamonds can also help fend off osteonecrosis of the bone, which is a rare complication that not only leads to implant failure, but can significantly damage the jawbone.
Researchers at the UCLA School of Dentistry have also proposed that nanodiamonds could be used to fill root canals and insure that any leftover infected pulp (nerve tissue and blood vessels inside of your tooth) will not spread infection. The nanodiamonds would beinfused with gutta percha, a polymer used to fill in where the infected pulp was. The researchers used both nanodiamond infused gutta percha, and nanodiamond infused gutta percha combined with antibiotics. The latter not only properly filled the root canal, but also eliminated any residual bacteria. It’s likely that in the future, the two techniques might be combined for a powerful antibiotic implant.
The Here and Now
While these are all fantastic ideas, it is important to realize that they are all still in the experimental phases of development. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we are going to see 3-D printed teeth within the next couple of years. There is, however, a lot that you can do now to ensure that you do not lose your implant to catastrophic failure. Practicing proper dental hygiene is key to ensure healthy teeth, gums, and implants. This includes brushing and flossing at least twice per day, and regularly using mouthwash. Also, scheduling regular visits with your dentist is key. If you are in the Altamonte Springs area and have any questions about dental implants, or would like to schedule an appointment please call Michael L. Weinstock DDS at (407) 834-6446.