Researchers are developing a smart dental implant that resists bacterial growth and generates its own electricity through chewing and brushing to power a tissue-rejuvenating light. The innovation could extend the usable life of an implant.
Implants represent a leap of progress over dentures or bridges, fitting much more securely and designed to last 20 years or more. But often implants fall short of that expectation, instead needing replacement in five to 10 years due to local inflammation or gum disease, necessitating a repeat of a costly and invasive procedure for patients.
Geelsu Hwang, an assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, who has a background in engineering that he brings to his research on oral health issues, says: “We wanted to address this issue, and so we came up with an innovative new implant”.
The novel implant would implement two key technologies, Hwang says. One is a nanoparticle-infused material that resists bacterial colonisation. And the second is an embedded light source to conduct phototherapy, powered by the natural motions of the mouth, such as chewing or toothbrushing. In a paper in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces and a 2020 paper in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials, Hwang and colleagues lay out their platform, which could one day be integrated not only into dental implants but other technologies, such as joint replacements.
“We wanted an implant material that could resist bacterial growth for a long time because bacterial challenges are not a one-time threat,” Hwang says.
The power-generating property of the material was sustained and in tests over time the material did not leach or harm gum tissue, and demonstrated a good level of mechanical strength.