The UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country has been studying and developing new dental implant coatings that are proving to increase their success rate after being implanted.
Why Dental Implants Fail
Dental implants are used globally to fill the gap of a missing tooth or teeth. Though the success rate of dental implants is impressive, complications do occur.
According to Beatriz Palla, researcher in the Biomaterials Group of the UPV/EHU’s Department of Polymer Science and Technology, “about 10% of implants have to be removed due to osseointegration problems or to the onset of infections.” In layman’s terms, the dental implant doesn’t adhere to the bone, or it gets infected.
Infection, or peri-implantitus, is one of the common complications and there are several reasons this inflammation can occur. For instance, bacteria may be present during or after oral surgery, or the dental cement can get caught in the gums.
Designing strategies to combat bacterial infection is complicated by the challenges of providing the surface of titanium implants with antibacterial properties, and the resistance that bacteria can develop to typical therapies using antibiotics.
Designing Dental Implant Coatings
Dental implant coatings have already been developed to facilitate adherence to the bone around the implant, increasing the success of anchoring the implant to the bone. However, researchers wanted to take their research further by turning the coating into an antibacterial agent that actually prevents the formation of bacteria.
The process they used is called sol-gel synthesis. This synthesis, or magic, occurs in a couple of steps.
- A precursor solution (sol) turns into a gel (gel), which is used to coat the surface of the titanium screw
- The coated screw is heated in a kiln at a high temperature, thus adhering it to the screw (synthesis)
The precursor solution that they tested was a silica, which studies have shown to have bone healing properties. Then they added various antibacterial agents to give the solution antibacterial characteristics.
Dental Implant Coating Prototypes
In Palla’s study, three types of coatings were developed. The difference between the prototypes is the various antibacterial agents that were chosen. Each of the agents had the ability to tackle infections, whether by preventing the bacteria from adhering to the implant or eliminating it once it had.
The coating that prevents the infection is called a prophylactic coating. It is a very long-lasting material that remains adhered to the screw, thus working for as long as possible to fight off bacteria. The coating that actually eradicates the infection once it occurs must be a rapidly degrading material so it can release the antibacterial agents quickly to attack the infection. There is a third coating prototype is designed to be used on an infected screw that is already implanted, without the need to extract the implant. This new material is a trade secret while it’s in the process of being patented.
Palla believes that “it is possible to confirm that coatings with an antibacterial capability and which do not affect the proper integration of the dental implant into the jawbone have been developed”. But she does admit that it will be a while before this technique can be applied and used at dental offices.
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