One of the biggest drawbacks of having a dental implant placed in your mouth is the risk of infection. Scientists from around the globe have been tirelessly working to minimize this risk, and one team in Belgium has made a breakthrough. The researchers, a team from various departments at KU Leuven in Belgium, have developed a dental implant that contains a reservoir designed to slowly release a strong antimicrobial agent that helps prevent and eliminate bacterial biofilms, often responsible for infection.
According to a recent article from Medical News Today, a publication in the journal European Cells & Materials describes how the team designed and tested the implant. Lead author, Dr. Kaat De Cremer, from the Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics at KU Leuven, explained that the reservoir in the implant can be filled by removing the cover screw.
“The implant is made of a porous composite material, so that the drugs gradually diffuse from the reservoir to the outside of the implant, which is in direct contact with the bone cells. As a result, the bacteria can no longer form a biofilm.”
Bacteria typically have two life-forms, planktonic and biofilm. In the planktonic state, they exist as single, independent cells, while in the biofilm state, they aggregate in a slime-enclosed mass. When in the biofilm state, bacteria is usually difficult to treat, and when they become chronic, they also become resistant to antibiotics.
In the paper, researchers noted that implant developers have recently begun to enlarge the contact area of implants, thus improving anchorage with bone cells and integration into the bone. While this is generally a good idea, the increased surface also raises the risk of biofilm development, and therefore infection, which is the number one reason for implant failure.
The researchers conducted a variety of laboratory tests on the new implant, which is a composite of a silicon-based “diffusion barrier” integrated into a porous, load-bearing titanium structure. During the trials, the reservoir was filled with chlorhexidine, a strong antimicrobial often used in mouthwash. Testing showed that the chlorhexidine-filled implant stopped Streptococcus mutans (a mouth bacterium that attacks teeth) from forming biofilms. Furthermore, biofilms that were grown on the implant before loading the reservoir were eliminated. The scientists concluded that the implant was effective at both preventing and eliminating biofilms. Further testing will be necessary to determine effectiveness in actual patients.