US scientists develop smart coating for dental implants

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US scientists develop smart coating for dental implants

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(DTI/Photo Vadim Kozlovsky)
Daniel Zimmermann, DTI

By Daniel Zimmermann, DTI

Thu. 4 February 2010

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NEW YORK, USA/LEIPZIG, Germany: Osseointegration remains one of the biggest challenges in implant dentistry. Scientists from the North Carolina State University in the US are now reporting to have developed a ‘smart’ coating that could help hip, knee and tooth replacements bond more closely with bone and ward off infections. Their research, which received funding by the US government, could open doors to much safer and functional implants in dentistry.

According to the researchers, the new coating is comprised mainly of hydroxylapatite, a naturally occurring mineral also found in dentin and dental enamel. When applied to an implant it creates an amorphous outer layer touching the surrounding bone. This layer will dissolve over time, releasing calcium and phosphate, and encourage bone growth into the coating.

“We call it a smart coating because we can tailor the rate at which the amorphous layer dissolves to match the bone growth rate of each patient,” says Dr. Afsaneh Rabiei, an NC State associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and co-author of a paper describing the research. “This is important because people have very different rates of bone growth.”

He added that his team also incorporated silver nanoparticles throughout the coating to act as antimicrobial agents as the amorphous layer dissolves. This will not only limit the amount of antibiotics patients will need following surgery, but provide protection from infection at the implant site for the life of the implant, Dr Rabiei said.

Current coating processes, involving hydroxyapatite and other forms of calcium phosphate, have shown several disadvantages and limited flexibility in controlling coating crystallinity. Earlier studies also found that hydroxylapatite may not resorb quickly enough and block the space for new bone tissue to grow.

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