A scientist at Michigan Technological University is in the process of using nanotechnology to create better, longer-lasting dental implants.
“Dental implants can greatly improve the lives of people who need them,” said Tolou Shokuhfar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “But there are two main issues that concern dentists: infection and separation from the bone.”
Shokuhfar says implants with a surface made from titanium dioxide nanotubes can battle infection, improve healing, and help dental implants last a lifetime.
“We have done toxicity tests on the nanotubes, and not only did they not kill cells, they encouraged growth,” she said. She has already demonstrated that bone cells grow more vigorously and adhere better to titanium coated with titanium dioxide nanotubes than to conventional titanium surfaces.
The nanotubes can also be a drug delivery system. Shokuhfar’s team loaded titanium dioxide nanotubes with the anti-inflammatory drug sodium naproxen and demonstrated that it could be released gradually after implant surgery. That assures that the medicine gets where it’s needed, and it reduces the chances of unpleasant side effects that arise when a drug is injected or taken orally. To fight infection, the nanotubes can also be laced with silver nanoparticles.
Shokuhfar and her team have received a provisional patent and are working with two hospitals to further develop the technology and license it.