Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania created a dental implant that resists bacterial growth and generates electricity thanks to its piezoelectric properties. The electricity generated could power a light source for onboard phototherapy, a technique that could help protect gum tissue from disease and inflammation. The implant contains discs with embedded barium titanate (BTO) nanoparticles that work to create a negative surface charge on the material that repels bacteria.
Dental implants are used to replace teeth that are lost to tooth decay or gum disease, and are a more advanced solution to tooth loss than dentures due to a more secure fit. Although implants are intended to last a couple of decades, in practice they often fail much sooner, often requiring replacement within 5 to 10 years due to gum problems or inflammation. Nobody likes visiting the dentist, and the expense and discomfort of replacing an implant is a good inspiration for designing a more durable implant.
This latest technology aims to combat the main cause of implant failure: bacteria. Bacterial biofilms that accumulate on implants (and real teeth) negatively impact gum health and eventually cause device failure. The new implants contain a material infused with BTO nanoparticles, which leads to a negative surface charge, which effectively repels negative bacterial cell walls. Researchers have tested implants with Streptococcus mutans, an important component of dental plaque, and were shown to reduce biofilm formation in a dose-dependent manner.
The researchers hope that this effect can last for a sustained duration, improving the lifespan of such implants. “We wanted an implant material that could resist bacterial growth for a long time because bacterial challenges are not a unique threat,” said Geelsu Hwang, a researcher involved in the study, via a UPenn news release. Interestingly, implants also incorporate another mechanism to improve gum health: phototherapy.
Implants can collect electricity from mouth movements or tooth brushing. They can then use this energy to power small light sources. The idea is that this light could induce a phototherapeutic effect on the surrounding gum tissue.
“Phototherapy can address a diverse set of health problems,” Hwang said. “But once a biomaterial is implanted, it is not practical to replace or recharge a battery. We are using a piezoelectric material, which can generate electrical energy from natural oral movements to deliver a light that can perform phototherapy, and we found that it can successfully protect gum tissue from bacterial challenge. “
To study in ACS Applied Interfaces and Materials: Bimodal nanocomposite platform with antibiofilm and self-feeding functions for biomedical applications