Because of its piezoelectric qualities, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania developed a dental implant that resists bacterial growth and generates electricity.
The electricity generated might be used to power a light source for on-board phototherapy, a treatment that could protect gum tissue against disease and inflammation. The implant has discs containing embedded barium titanate (BTO) nanoparticles, which work to establish a negative surface charge on the material, making it bacteria-resistant.
Dental implants are a more modern alternative to tooth loss than dentures, as they provide a more stable fit. Although the implants are designed to last several decades, they typically fail significantly sooner, necessitating replacement within five to ten years owing to gum disease or inflammation.
No one enjoys going to the dentist, and the cost and inconvenience of having an implant replaced is an excellent motivator to create a more durable implant.
This new device tries to tackle germs, which is the main cause of implant failure. Bacterial biofilms that form on implants (and natural teeth) have a severe impact on gum health, which can lead to device failure.
The novel implants feature a BTO nanoparticle-infused substance that produces a negative surface charge that repels negative bacterial cell walls. The implants were tested on Streptococcus mutans, a common component of dental plaque, and found to inhibit biofilm development in a dose-dependent way.
The researchers expect that this impact will endure for a long time, extending the implant’s life span. According to a news statement from the University of Pennsylvania, “we needed an implant material that could resist bacterial development for a long time because bacterial threats are not a one-time hazard.” Surprisingly, the implants also include phototherapy as a means of improving gum health.
Electricity can be harvested via mouth movements or teeth brushing by the implants. This energy can then be used to power small light sources. The theory is that this light will have a phototherapeutic effect on the gum tissue around it.
“Phototherapy can help with a wide range of health problems,” Hwang said. “However, it is not practicable to replace or recharge a battery once a biomaterial has been implanted. We’re employing a piezoelectric material that can create electrical power from natural mouth motions to power a light that can conduct phototherapy, and we’ve discovered that it effectively protects gingival tissue from bacterial challenge.”