Researchers Develop Infection-Fighting Dental Implants

Researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium have developed a dental implant that is capable of preventing and fighting off infection. Biofilms, which form when bacteria and liquid join together and create a substance that sticks to surfaces, can often be resistant to treatments like antibiotics once they begin to form and infection sets in. In fact, infection is the leading cause of dental implant failure, says Dallas area oral surgeon Dr. Kevin Pollock, DDS, MS.

“The human mouth is full of bacteria, and when an infection occurs, the first course of action is usually antibiotics. Sometimes, antibiotics are not successful at treating the infection, and so the implant must be removed and placement reattempted after the infection has cleared”, says Pollock.

Dental implants have a very high success rate. The American Association of Endodontists found that the success rate is often over 98%. However, with such high success rates, it seems that one of the only things holding the procedure back from being near perfection is the risk of infection that comes during and just after placement. This seems to be the motivation that set researchers on a path to develop this ground-breaking, infection-fighting implant.

The implant works by storing antimicrobial medication in a special reservoir that is built into the screw of the implant under the crown. The permeable material that the implant is made of allows for whatever is being stored in the reservoir to be slowly dispersed. Since the implant is inserted into the bone, the antimicrobial drugs are able to make direct contact with the area most in need of protection from potential infections. 

In order for implant procedure to be successful, the titanium implant must bond with the bone to create a strong foundation for the artificial tooth, says Pollock.

“In the past, implant surgeries always required two procedures. The first involved the placement of the implant and then several months later, after the bone was given time to bond with the implant, a second procedure was performed to uncover the implant and place a cap for the gum to heal around. Thanks to advances in dental technology, I now perform implants with only one procedure, completely eliminating the need to undergo two surgeries for one solution.”

The development of the single-stage dental implant surgery shows that dentistry is moving in a direction that all patients can rejoice about: less-invasive treatment plans. Now, with the potential of an infection-fighting implant, the likelihood of infection will be reduced, possibly, dramatically.