If you’ve been thinking about getting a dental implant, now may be the perfect time. When implants first came out, they were the only option for people with broken or irreparably-damaged teeth. However, they were somewhat painful, took a long time to heal after insertion, and they weren’t always made with the hardest materials. Today, that’s not the case.
One of the strongest metals known to man is titanium. It’s also one of the lightest and most durable. It has a silver color and low density, yet it’s capable of resisting corrosion in sea water, and chlorine.
Because of the strength and corrosion-resistance, it’s often used in medical implants. But, a problem arises when it’s used in the body that no known substance can resist and that’s bacteria – specifically bacterial films called biofilms.
Biofilm formation is common among many species of pathogenic bacteria, and it’s a matrix that’s created by the little buggers to protect them from antibiotics and the body’s immune system. By dodging all attempts to eradicate them, they can multiply unchecked, release toxins out into the body, and cause serious harm to the patient. And, bacteria love to adhere to metals.
To combat this, scientists in Japan and China have been testing a novel urease fabrication that bonds denatured collagen to the metal, allowing it to better integrate into the body’s own natural tissues. Because titanium itself cannot bond to living bone, there’s a constant risk of biofilm formation and other rejection risks to deal with. In the mouth, the risk is especially high because a lot of different bacteria call it home.
With a collagen (gelatin) matrix coating the metal, the body should see it as part of its own tissue and accept it. Collagen can bond to bone and other tissue and be incorporated into the body’s system.
In the mouth, this means that collagen-coated titanium screws can be inserted into the patient, the gelatin matrix can more easily bond to the bone and tooth cap or bridge surface, and resist more bacteria than if it were left untreated.
Ceramic and Polymers
Another promising technology is a special combination of ceramic and polymers that replace a damaged or cosmetically imperfect tooth with an implant.
Basically, with the ceramic alloy, a mixture of polymers and ceramic are hardened into a tooth-like surface that’s both strong and light. The implant is capable of withstanding both sheer and mastication forces found inside the mouth.
They are also resistant to corrosion and erosion, like titanium, but are lower in cost. Current simulations show that the material reduces the stress on the jaw bone, which is important since virtually all implants must be anchored into bone for stability.
The market for these implants is primarily older people who often need them but cannot afford the cost of titanium models.