The future of dental implants; nanotechnology and self-growing teeth

The future of dental implants; nanotechnology and self-growing teeth

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Dental implants have come a long way in the last twenty years. Changes and advances in technology have increased the success rate and longevity of the implants, while lessening healing time. What’s next?

The ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Mayan people were inserting teeth implants thousands of years ago. While the idea is the same—an attractive replacement for missing teeth—the methodology is slightly different from chiselling a bit of sculpted bone or bamboo into the jaw. Thankfully.

26% of adults have lost all their teeth by age 74. Dental implants are a technology worth investing in. The goals of new dental implant technology are three-fold: More accurate surgery, faster recovery, and increased success rate. Every incremental change is heading towards satisfying these three outcomes.


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.

Increased accuracy

The introduction of CAD/ CAM to dental implants has increase accuracy in many ways. It’s helped create implants and abutments for more complex scenarios. It’s made the whole process of creating implants more accurate, and it’s minimised the time needed to manufacture the parts. It’s possible in future that machines can perform some of the actual surgery, making the process incredibly accurate and less prone to human error.

FEA – or, Finite Element Analysis allows scientists to study implant and jawbone properties and how to make the implant surface better. The FEA uses a 3D model to predict how stress is distributed across the implants. This helps to create better designs of implants, which distribute pressure more evenly, which increases the likelihood of the implant succeeding.

Stem cells: Grow your own teeth

Are people going to be able to grow their own teeth? In general, your baby teeth are gone by around age 12, and then your adult teeth have to last you the rest of your life. Meanwhile, sharks can replace their teeth at will within a few weeks. If sharks can do it, why can’t humans?

Scientists have found that some teeth, both baby teeth and adult teeth, hold stem cells, which have the ability to replicate themselves. Studies are underway to grow teeth from stem cells in mice and rats. They have found a tooth can grow in the right environment, meaning that human trials of tooth growing may be coming in the future.

Decreased time to teeth

As technology moves faster, people want to see results faster. Dentists are starting to roll processes into one step, tooth extraction and implant placements happening in the same procedure. The addition of biomolecular coatings on the implants that encourage osseointegration makes the delay between implant and final prosthesis fitting shorter.

Each new technological development and process refinement makes the process faster and increases the likelihood of better outcomes. They decrease healing times and may make the surgery accessible to people previously unable to receive implants due to low bone density and health problems. It’s an exciting time for the dental industry – and maybe the future is self-healing teeth and growing new ones when needed..who knows.