Nanotechnology May Help Reduce Dental Implant Failure Rates

Posted on: 9 December 2014


Dental implants are a good option for replacing damaged teeth that have fallen out or were extracted. They mimic the look and feel of real teeth and can minimize the bone loss associated with missing teeth. Implants have a success rate of up to 98 percent. However, a new type of dental implant promises to reduce the failure rate to zero. Here's more information about this latest development as well as tips for ensuring your dental implant takes hold.

Causes of Implant Failure

The most common cause of implant failure in a healthy person is infection. Research has uncovered at least 37 types of unique bacteria in the human mouth. Implants can also be contaminated with bacteria from improper storage and handling, thought this doesn't occur often. Any of these organisms can cause infection and disease that impedes the healing process and makes it difficult for the implant to integrate with the jaw bone.

Another issue that impacts the success or failure of a dental implant is the implant's ability to attach to the bone. An implant can fail to attach for a number of reasons including poor quality bone mass, slow growing bone, and health factors such as osteoporosis. If the bone does manage to form around the implant, it may not be strong enough to withstand the chewing force put upon it by the jaw, leading to breakage and other issues that may require the removal of the implant.

New Technology to Battle Old Problems

To help prevent or minimize these two issues, a scientist at Michigan Technological University has developed a new type of implant that is covered in titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanotubes. These are tiny tubes are etched into the surface of the implant and can serve as a delivery method for a variety of medications that may reduce the risk of infection and promote bone development.

For example, the implant can be coated in sodium naproxen, which is an anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medication that can help reduce swelling and discomfort. The TiO2 nanotubes would deliver the medication directly to the site, minimizing the side effects associated with taking the drug orally or intravenously.

The TiO2 nanotubes also appeared to help improve bone growth and the bone seems to attach better to these implants, reducing the risk of separation issues. The scientist also stated that the titanium implant could have silver particles embedded into it. Silver has antimicrobial properties that would kill infection-causing germs but protect healthy cells and tissues.

Tips for Minimizing Risk of Implant Failure

Currently, these implants are still undergoing development and testing. However, there are several things you can do now to minimize the risk of your dental implant failing to take root in your mouth.

  • Take care of any gum or periodontal disease first. An existing infection in the gum or jaw bones can make it exceeding difficult for your mouth to properly heal after implant surgery.
  • Get your health conditions under control. Diabetes and heart disease has a negative impact on your circulatory system, which can make it harder for white blood cells (your body's natural infection fighters) to eliminate invasive bacteria. High blood sugar levels associated with uncontrolled diabetes, in particular, loads your saliva with excess sugar and causes an increase in oral bacteria.
  • Stop using tobacco products. Smoking, chewing tobacco and other tobacco products are one of the most common controllable causes of dental implant failure because nicotine slows bone growth. This, in turn, can make it hard for the implant to integrate into the jaw bone.
  • Maintain healthy oral habits. Be certain to brush regularly and use a germ-killing mouthwash to keep the surrounding teeth and gums healthy. This can keep bacteria at bay and give your implant a fighting chance.

For more information about dental implants or to learn about what's new in the tooth implant field, talk to a dentist in your area.