Biomaterials are substances that has been created or engineered to easily interact with human biological systems. For dentistry, this includes metals, carbons, polymers, and ceramics. Each substance has its own benefits and problems, for instance polymers being soft and flexible, but with very low strength, which makes them perfect as shock absorbers between the implant and crown. Most commonly, titanium is used as the implant due to its non-reactive nature with the human body, its ability to integrate with the bone as well as its strength. Historically, we’ve known use of these materials helps increase the likelihood of a successful integration.
However, the next generation of implants are all about nanotechnology. This is about manipulating materials on the atomic level. There are two ways this is done. Surface roughness, and additional growth factors.
Nanotechnology is used to increase surface roughness with materials which help with osseointegration. This roughness, combined with the growth-encouraging materials, helps protein adsorption and adhesion of the body’s cells. So far, these processes to encourage roughness have included laser pitting and lithography, anodization, sandblasting with alumina or placing nanoparticles of calcium phosphate and hydroxyapatite on the surface of the implant.
Some implants are also coated with growth factors, that stimulate bone growth. Studies are showing that adding these growth factors promotes bone growth. Added to this, some molecules also prevent bone resorption, providing a double- whammy to the bone integration process.
What this will look like in the future is faster healing and a higher success rate of implants. An experiment was carried out on a 70 year-old with inadequate jaw bone quantity. A surgeon, Andreas Thor, put instructive nanomaterials in the jaw- and a few months later, the patient could get dental implants as the bone had built itself.