New Surface Material Looks Promising for Dental Implants

A new dental implant surface shows great promise in reducing two of the main issues that plague implants – infection and separation from the bone.  Although most dental implants are successful, there is a small percentage that do fail due to infection or bone separation and a Michigan Technological University scientist is working to lower implant failure to zero percent.

Tolou Shokuhfar is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and as been working  for more than two years on a dental implant created with a surface made of TiO2 (titanium dioxide)  nanotubes.  Shokuhfar and her research team found that the nanotubes did not harm cells, but instead encouraged bones cells to not only grow more vigorously, but to also adhere better to titanium coated with TiO2 nanotubes than to conventional titanium surfaces.

Another benefit of the nanotubes is that the material can be used as a drug delivery system.  Shokuhfar’s research team have demonstrated how the nanotubes can deliver sodium naproxen, an anti-inflammatory drug, gradually after implant surgery.  By loading the drug into the nanotubes, the drug is placed exactly where it needs to be thus reducing the chance of unpleasant side effects that may arise if the drug was ingested or injected.

An additional method of fighting infection in dental implants would be to lace the TiO2 nanotubes with silver nanoparticles.  Shokuhfar stated, “Silver has antimicrobial properties, and we are capable of obtaining a dose that can kill microbes but would not hurt healthy cells and tissues…a nanotextured implant surface embedded with silver nanoparticles could prevent infection for the life of the implant.”

One cosmetic benefit of nanotubes is their transparency.  Anyone opting for an implant, especially those created from zirconia which is popular for its total whiteness, would want an unobtrusive implant surface material.

Shokuhfar and a colleague, Craig Friedrich, have received a provisional patent on their technology and are now working with two hospitals to further develop nanotube technology. 

Shokuhfar feels that this new surface they’ve developed will have a big impact in both dental and orthopedic implants as the nano-material can battle infection, improve healing, is inexpensive and can help dental implants last a lifetime.