Nanotubes help dental implants last longer, say scientists

Scientists in the US have demonstrated bone cells grow more quickly and stick better to titanium coated with titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanotubes than to conventional titanium surfaces. They have also shown that the TiO2 nanotubes could be loaded with anti-bacterial silver nanoparticles and with the anti-inflammatory drug sodium naproxen, in order to kill germs and act as a gradual drug delivery system to help repair the mouth after surgery. ‘We have done toxicity tests on the nanotubes, and not only did they not kill cells, they encouraged growth,’ said Tolou Shokuhfar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University, in a statement.

‘What we’re developing is a surface that’s inexpensive and easy to make and which can speed healing in so many ways.’

She added that nanotube-covered implants would easily assimilate into the existing implant market. ‘Basically nanotubes are just a thicker form of the native oxide, which is the same as the white pigment that you find everywhere: in food, toothpaste, cosmetics, multivitamin and multimineral supplements, paints—all kinds of products,’ she said.

Dental implants consist of titanium are posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone and topped with artificial teeth. A small proportion fall out or fall and must be removed and replacement surgery can be difficult because the jawbone is thin and delicate.

Shokuhfar is now working with Cortino Sukotjo, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry on a dental implant with a surface made from TiO2 nanotubes.

She is also working with Michigan Tech colleague Craig Friedrich, to develop orthopedic implants, such as artificial hips, with nanotextured surfaces that contain silver and prevent biofilms – colonies of bacteria that can cover implants and be very difficult to eradicate – for the life of the implant.