A trip to the dentist or orthodontist can instil dread in some patients. Add to that the fear of oral surgery with a painful recovery, and many people will avoid these visits. Now, one group reports a pre-clinical study in ACS Nano showing that pain and recovery time could potentially be reduced with the aid of specialised nanotechnology.
In some orthodontic cases, teeth are misaligned to such an extent that surgery is required to cut collagen fibres under the gums before braces are put on the teeth. But patients often choose not to undergo the procedure because it’s invasive and can be painful. Scientists recently have turned to nanotechnologies to target therapeutics to specific locations. For example, previous studies have shown some success in using liposomes, which are empty nanoscale vesicles, for drug delivery. Collagenase enzymes could potentially remodel the fibres connecting teeth to bone in the mouth without using a scalpel, but so far, delivering enzymes with liposomes has been challenging. Avi Schroeder and colleagues wanted to develop liposomes that could deliver collagenase enzymes to perform targeted nanosurgery in the mouth.
The team developed liposomal nanoparticles that contained collagenase and performed tests with them on rats. When the liposomes were placed under the gums, the collagenase diffused out of the particles and was activated by calcium naturally found in the mouth. The collagenase weakened the collagen fibres, making it easier to shift the teeth afterward with braces. Compared to conventional surgery, the collagenase treatment helped move the teeth three times faster.