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Nanotechnology research is aiding tooth implants in dental care
Updated: 10/3/2013 7:30:02 PM
 

Nanotechnology research is aiding tooth implants in dental care

Dental implants are becoming the preferred treatment to replace missing teeth, edging out bridges that have been used for generations in dental care to connect teeth over spaces where one tooth or more have been lost. The technology for implants is also progressing with new methods of reducing infections and implant failure.

Implants are held in place by titanium posts inserted surgically into the jawbone and topped with artificial teeth. Health News Digest reported that scientists are working on improved ways to insert tooth implants with nanotechnology they hope will fight infections and improve bone healing around the implant.

In addition, new surfaces used for implants are made from titanium dioxide nanotubes, which speeds the bone's cell growth and results in faster and stronger adherence to the implants. The tubes are filled with medication that disperses after oral surgery directly into the location where it's needed, reducing both side effects and infections.

Implant expenses
While bridges typically have a life expectancy of about 10 years, researchers hope the new advances will create permanent implants that last for the life of the patient. Although they are currently more expensive than having a bridge installed, implants rarely need to be replaced.

For people who have no dental insurance, or whose health plans don't cover dental costs, the price of implants can be greatly reduced for people who sign on to a discount dental plan. Many dentistry services in dental plans for both individuals and families are lower so that people don't need to go without basic dental care or even more involved procedures like implants.

Nanodiamonds and implants
Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles have been experimenting with nanodiamonds, which are tiny byproducts of diamond mining, to promote bone growth in people with osteonecrosis, a disease in which bones deteriorate because of reduced blood flow. 

The study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, found that nanodiamonds bind to bone protein to promote growth and can be administered non-invasively by an injection or an oral rinse. Researchers at UCLA's School of Dentistry and Department of Bioengineering are working on the project with scientists at Northwestern University and the NanoCarbon Research Institute in Japan.

"We've conducted several comprehensive studies, in both cells and animal models, looking at the safety of the nanodiamond particles," said study co-author Laura Moore, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at Northwestern University. "Initial studies indicate that they are well tolerated, which further increases their potential in dental and bone repair applications."

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