When you reach the age where you start thinking about retirement, you may think about the relaxation and extra time for travel, spending time with family and pursuing favorite hobbies. One thing you're probably not thinking about is dental care -- and how a lifetime of dental care, likely with different dentists, may have left you with mismatched teeth and an imperfect bite.
Dental implants are a great way for patients to replace missing teeth and restore their smile. Implants allow dentists to not only improve a smile’s aesthetics by replacing missing teeth, but they also allow protection of patient health by preventing loss of bone, additional tooth loss and other complications that arise from missing teeth. Dental implants are an ideal therapy because they are easy to care for, are permanent and have a high rate of success compared to other procedures or therapies. A new breakthrough for dental implants can make them an even better therapy – by engineering them to help fight off infection.
The success rate of dental implants is almost 99 percent, according to the American Academy of Endodontists. This means that for the majority of implant patients, there are no complications during or after implant placement. But for some patients, complications from dental implants can and do occur. Complications of implant surgery can range from the failure to ossify, or anchor, itself into the bone. Another cause of implant failure is the development of infections. Infections of dental implants are known as dental implantitis, and are caused by bacteria that is present in the patient’s gums before the procedure, or that develop as a result of improper dental hygiene practices after surgery.
Researchers at Spain’s University of the Basque Country are working to develop antibacterial coatings for dental implants to minimize complications and failure from infections, and help to ensure successful implant placements. The project has its challenges, however. One particular challenge the project seeks to address is the ability of certain bacteria to resist antibiotic treatment. Another challenge for researchers is addressing the problem of implants failing to ossify into the bone where they are placed, a situation that occurs in 30 percent of dental implant procedures worldwide.
Dr. Amy Norman, D.D.S., an Everett, Washington, dentist performs dental implant surgery on patients in her office who are looking to restore their smiles. "Many patients are looking to replace teeth that are missing, improve their smiles and regain their confidence. They often choose to do so using dental implants because implants are a permanent treatment versus prosthetic dentures. Dental implants are also very easy to care for," says Norman. "Most patients who have a dental implant have no complications with their implant surgery, but the idea of being able to minimize infection through the implant itself is intriguing and exciting," she continued.
The Spanish scientists initially developed a solution made up of silica and antibacterial agents that developed into a gel over time. This gel was then used to coat the titanium screw portion of the implant. Silica was chosen because of its bone growth inducing benefits.