Researchers are developing a smart dental implant that resists bacterial growth and generates its own electricity through chewing and brushing
Often dental implants require replacement in five to 10 years due to local inflammation or gum disease, necessitating a repeat of a costly and invasive procedure for patients. “We wanted to address this issue, and so we came up with an innovative new implant,” says Geelsu Hwang, an assistant professor in Penn’s School of Dental Medicine. The novel implant would implement two key technologies, Hwang says. One is a nanoparticle-infused material that resists bacterial colonization. And the second is an embedded light source to conduct phototherapy, powered by the natural motions of the mouth, such as chewing or toothbrushing. In a paper in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces and a 2020 paper in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials, Hwang and colleagues lay out their platform, which could one day be integrated not only into dental implants but other technologies, such as joint replacements, as well. “We are using a piezoelectric material, which can generate electrical power from natural oral motions to supply a light that can conduct phototherapy, and we find that it can successfully protect gingival tissue from bacterial challenge.”
The material the researchers explored was barium titanate (BTO), which has piezoelectric properties. To test its potential as the foundation for a dental implant, the team first used discs embedded with nanoparticles of BTO and exposed them to Streptococcus mutans, a primary component of the bacterial biofilm responsible for tooth decay commonly known as dental plaque. They found that the discs resisted biofilm formation in a dose-dependent manner. Discs with higher concentrations of BTO were better at preventing biofilms from binding. The material generates enhanced negative surface charge that repels the negatively charged cell walls of bacteria. It’s likely that this repulsion effect would be long-lasting, the researchers say. The power-generating property of the material was sustained and in tests over time the material did not leach. It also demonstrated a level of mechanical strength comparable to other materials used in dental applications. Finally, the material did not harm normal gingival tissue in the researchers’ experiments, supporting the idea that this could be used without ill effect in the mouth.
Source: University of Pennsylvania news release