Scientists Make Breakthrough with New Dental Implant Coatings

Researchers at the University of Basque Country in Spain have developed what may be a groundbreaking development in the world of dental implants. They have created special gel coatings with antibacterial properties. Not only do they help prevent infection and fight it off if it occurs, but they help the implants anchor to the bone faster than in the past.

Dr. Kevin Pollock, DDS, MS, founder of Pinnacle Oral Surgery Specialists in Rockwall, Texas says,

“One of the leading causes of dental implant failure is a bacterial infection. Implants have a very high success rate, but close to 10% do have to be removed because of infection. If these coatings are successfully brought to market, it could increase the success rate of dental implants to near perfection.”

The coatings are painted onto the implant screw before it’s placed in the mouth. Some of the elements in the gel are meant to degrade and be released quickly, such as the ones that fight infection if one occurs. The others are meant to stay adhered for as long as possible to prevent infection and encourage bone growth around the implant.

Pollock says,

“There are several ways infection can affect the implant process. The first is an infection that sets in during the healing process and sometimes between 4 to 8 weeks after the surgery. The gums around the surgery site can become red, painful and swollen. When infection is minor, it can often be treated with antibiotics or the dentist may have to remove the screw to clean inside the implant and replace it [the screw] with a new sterile one. In more severe situations the bone where the implant was placed may struggle with healing and accepting the implant and can become infected. When this happens, the implant must be removed as it could affect the blood supply to that area of the jaw bone.”

According to the Academy of Implant Dentistry, more than 35 million people in America are missing all of their teeth in the upper jaw, lower jaw or both. Even more staggering is the fact that 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. The causes of tooth loss are varied and include everything from traumatic injuries, poor oral hygiene, gum disease and cancer. “Losing teeth not only affects the way people eat and speak but it can also change how they look in ways other than just their smile,” says Pollock. 

“Many people don’t realize the biggest concern aesthetically for someone missing teeth is actually their facial structure and bone, not the tooth itself. After a tooth is lost, the space in the jaw bone where the root once took up residence begins to reabsorb. Without stimulation from chewing and general use the tooth, the bone begins to decrease in width; sometimes up to 25% in the first year alone. Over time the entire face changes shape. The cheek bones begin to sink in, lips lose support and start to sag, the nose and chin begin to move closer together, and the lower part of the face appears to shrink considerably creating an aged look.”

Dentures, although a popular choice among edentulous patients (those without teeth), don’t stimulate the jaw bone as the gums remain empty of root structure. This is why dental professionals all over the nation have started turning to implants as the recommended treatment for missing teeth. The titanium post inserted into the jaw bone creates a strong foundation that keeps the bone strong and also allows for natural ease while eating and speaking. With a success rate of over 90%, dental implant technology is expanding every day, and with this breakthrough in medical science, the success rates are sure to soar closer to 100% in the coming years.